#bookreview Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak published by Viking


Set across Istanbul and Oxford, from the 1980s to the present day, Three Daughters of Eve is a sweeping tale of faith and friendship, tradition and modernity, love and an unexpected betrayal.

Peri, a wealthy Turkish housewife and mother, is on her way to a dinner party at a seaside mansion in Istanbul when a beggar snatches her handbag. As she wrestles to get it back, a photograph falls to the ground – an old polaroid of three young women and their university professor. A relic from a past – and a love Peri had tried desperately to forget.

The photograph takes Peri back to Oxford University, as nineteen year old sent abroad for the first time. To her dazzling, rebellious Professor and his life-changing course on God. To the house she shares with her two best friends, Shirin and Mona, and their arguments about identity, Islam and feminism. And finally, to the scandal that tore them all apart.

Shirin, Peri and Mona, they were the most unlikely of friends. They were the Sinner, the Believer and the Confused.

My reading experience:

Peri is a wealthy Turkish woman living a lie. Dressed in what others could conceive as her finest (because what others think is highly important), she is making her way by car to a dinner party at a seaside mansion in Istanbul with her teenage and therefore grumpy and uncommunicative daughter. Distracted by the traffic jam and the heat, Peri throws her designer knock-off and yet highly coveted bag into the back seat where it is quickly stolen by operative thieves weaving through the traffic. Against her usual better and conservative judgement, Peri takes chase and ends up wounded and traumatised. When the contents of her bag falling to the ground reveal a long-lost polaroid of her days at Oxford University, Peri is thrown into disarray. By now, the reader is speculating that Peri’s real “self” died in Oxford, and what is left is a “designer copy” of the society wives that she and her husband circulate with.

With three women as strong characters, the over-arching theme of this tale, is the notion of God, the religious hypocrisy, segregation, illusion and deceit. This theme is woven through the tale with subtlety in some places, and a sledgehammer in others – well written prose and imagery, the reader is transported first to present day 2016 Istanbul and this pretentious dinner party which extends and weaves the length of the story and from where we are given flashbacks to Peri’s Oxford of 2000, with its chocolate box of students, vibrant pubs, neoclassical architecture and medieval passageways. The reader is also placed within a divided family, as well as a religiously eclectic seminar of students discussing God. With traumatic and violent scenes, surreal and ethereal daydreams or visions, heaps of glitter and glamorous people and by contrast, gritty, persevering characters, resolute in their own values, Shafak casts her spell with reality to create a very credible story. I really enjoyed the style of writing and the unexpected content from Shafak, and will be purchasing the paperback of this for my bookshelf.

The passages of Professor Azur’s seminars are heavily philosophical and full of artistry, as well as thought-provoking powerful prose. In this way, Shafak’s story is didactic and poetic, encompassing traditional morals as wells as progressive ideas.

Elif Shafak has produced a realistic account of modern day Turkey with its kaleidescope and confusion as well as an astounding multifarious story of self-belief, self-discovery and self-love.

I would like to thank the author, publisher and Netgalley for my free ARC. After reading I purchased the hardback edition as shown in this post.


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