Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak
Published October 2016 by Viking
My copy: Netgalley review copy
*** Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for the chance to read an advance review copy of this novel ***
Peri, a wealthy Turkish housewife, 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 an eighteen year old sent abroad for the first time. To her dazzling, rebellious Professor and his life-changing course on God. To her home with her two best friends, Shirin and Mona, and their arguments about Islam and femininity. And finally, to the scandal that tore them all apart.
For last year’s World Book Night, I was lucky enough to receive copies of Honour by Elif Shafak to distribute. I absolutely loved the book, and so did everyone I gave copies to! I was keen to read more by Shafak, so was really pleased when I received a review copy of her latest novel, Three Daughters of Eve.
And there was a lot I liked about this novel too but, sadly, more that I didn’t like. We start in present day Istanbul, with Peri driving her daughter to a party at a rich family’s mansion. On the way, she ends up confronting a robber and in the ensuing scuffle, a photo falls out of her bag. We then get a series of flashbacks and find out more about Peri and the origins of the mysterious photo.
As a girl, Peri was torn between a devoutly Muslim mother and a much more cynical father. Stuck in the middle, Peri was conflicted and never quite knew her place or where her beliefs lay. Then she goes to Oxford University where she finds herself again torn between two very different Muslim friends – and falling for an enigmatic professor.
The problem I had with this novel is that it got far too bogged down in politics, religion and philosophy. The book kept flitting to the dinner party in the present day, where the guests all discuss the political climate, and while much of this is topical, it just got a bit boring and felt contrived, as if the author just wanted to air her views and had to shoehorn them into the book somehow. Some of the conflicting religious viewpoints were again interesting, but overdone, and the professor with whom Peri becomes obsessed just came across as very annoying.
As for the ending – it just seemed so random and left the book on a very odd note.
Obviously I didn’t much enjoy this book. I felt there was a really good story here, but it was just buried underneath far too much rambling, irrelevant stuff. I had enjoyed Honour so much that I felt really disappointed with this, and it has left me wondering whether or not to give Shafak another chance.