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Book Review- The Bastard of Istanbul

The Bastard of Istanbul
The Armenian genocide was the systematic killing and deportation of Armenians by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire. In 1915, during World war 1, leaders of the Turkish government set in motion a plan to expel and massacre Armenians. About 1.5 million Armenians were dead, with many more forcibly removed from the country. If you don’t know this piece of information, you cannot feel this book. The Bastard of Istanbul is a fiction novel set in Arizona and Turkey with the backdrop of how the Armenian Genocide still haunts the new generation even after 100 years.

What is about– The story is about two girls- Asya and Armanoush their history and past connected to make them both sufferers of the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide. Asya is born in a Turkish family where there are three generations of women and the women feel that the men of their family are cursed not to live long. She is born to Zeliha and has no idea about her father. In the other part of the world, Armanoush is half American, half Armenian girl who wants to find out about her ancestors and decides to travel to Istanbul. Both the girls find their stories at a confluence which is revealed at the end of the book.

What to expect– You can feel lost for the first hundred pages of the book if you are not aware of the Ottoman Empire and the genocide. The book peeps into Turkish culture and while I have never traveled to that part of the world, it was slightly tedious for me to understand the first part of the book.
What I liked- The conservative yet progressive Turkey is just like its geographical location- somewhere between east and west is the land that bears the burden of its past and is still marching into a new future. The magical realist descriptions of Istanbul and Asya’s home are powerful: these are places where djinns comfortably coexist in the plot. Asya’s articles highlighted in bold letters in the book give a clever view of the politics and culture of Turkey. The gives a perspective that while Armenians and Turkish are so close to each other culturally, they have an unexplained hatred for each other which has built over years.
The book made me google all about the genocide!  Very heavy dose history there.

What could be better– It is cluttered with too many characters and themes. I had to stop reading to visualize the family chart of the characters. The book has a lot of disconnected stories in the beginning which eventually weave into each other but as a reader, I felt lost and disconnected. Some sections read interesting, but also great swathes of boredom and feeling that I’m being hit over the head by the author making her point. I wish the characters were less, keeping in mind each one of them was whimsical.

– For those who are seasoned readers and are looking for a book that talks about lifestyle and culture of a city which has not been read much about in literature.

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