Monday, 19 November 2012

Book Review: Orhan Pamuk's Silent House

Could you walk by this book? 

It's impossible to wander into London's oldest bookstore and leave without purchasing at least one good book. On a rather chilly autumnal afternoon, post-brunch with friends, I wandered into Hatchards. The store is a treat in itself, doubly so during the cold dark seasons where you can take refuge in the deepest corners and hide away from the world, if only for a while.

In one particular corner, a certain dust-jacket caught my eye, - Silent House it said and so silently, I picked it up, flipped it over, flipped it back, traced the stunning image with my fingers and sighed.  Yes, you're beautiful, I thought.  Please let you be beautiful on the inside too, I whispered.  I held my breath and read the first few pages.... yes, yes... you were very good but then I checked the inside cover and thought, are you really worth £18.99?  At this point, my friends appeared out of the darkness, promptly pointed towards the basement,  'paperbacks are that way', they cited.  And for a brief moment, all the tweeting about e-books pricing and paperbacks, flashed before my eyes 'matrix-style'.  For the first time, I felt uneasy about paying so much for a hardback.  Could I wait a few months for the paperback?  In short, the answer was, NO.  You were too beautiful and you were coming home with me that day. 

So, back to the book review.  The story is set during the summer of 1979, in a small Turkish beachside town before the military coup in 1980, and it's told from several of the characters point of view.  Fatma, the main protagonist, is a cantankerous grand-matriarch, a wilful, naive old lady, and surprisingly or not, as the story unfolds, we soon discover that she can also be quite vile.  She is mostly bedridden in her rambling old 'Silent House' near the beach.  Her daily chores and bidding are taken care of by one very intriguing dwarf named Recep, who by the way, is her late husband's illegitimate son.  Each year, her three bothersome grandchildren visit her from Istanbul.  There is Faruk - a failed historian, his younger siblings, his sister Nilgun who loves to read and brother Metin, who yearns for a life in America.  In the small village, we meet Ismail, Recep's brother, who sells lottery tickets, and Hasan, Ismail's young son who is caught up with a local gang of nationalists.  As fate would have it, Ismail becomes infatuated with Nilgun whose ideals are more Left than Right.

For me, this is a story about social classes, the yearning to belong, to obtain status, and to fail.  It's about family, relationships, love, betrayal and of course tragedies. The skeletons are practically busting out of Fatma's beloved closet.  If you recall that song 'I'm glad I'm not a Kennedy', you could apply to this tale and rename it to, ' I'm glad I'm not a Darvinoglu.'  With the narrative interchanging between five characters, after the first few chapters, I found my favourites, and my interest only waned with a couple of the characters, that being Faruk and Fatma.  I felt the need to re-read several mutterings and remind myself at times that this book was translated from Turkish to English.  Also, that it was written 30 years ago.  I'll be honest, at times, after re-reading Fatma's ramblings, I wanted to strangle the old lady.  Not that she reminded me of my own mother, mind. 

I particularly enjoyed the inner monologues of Hasan and Metin, both were the most compelling for me, but as I turned the last page, I felt a little cheated, at least for Recep and his brother Ismail.  I wanted to know more about them, the possibilities of what happened.  With this story, we see what Orhan Pamuk wants to reveal to us, and I think that's the point. There are many layers to each of these characters and with each chapter, it's just beneath the surface that Pamuk allows us a glimpse of what each one is thinking, and then the veil swiftly drops again.  Like a circus act, like a clever magician, like a wily old spider who weaves her web, quietly says 'there you are', and then sits back.  You consider how life went on for each of these characters after closing this book.  The possibilities are endless with this story and sometimes, you just have to dream them up yourself.  I certainly did. 

     

14 comments:

  1. Hi, Talei,

    I am SOOO glad I dropped by today. It's been ages! So busy remodeling my new FANTABULOUS work space that I haven't had much time to blog. I would LOVE you to see it. I have pics posted at my blog... scroll down after blogfest if you get a chance.

    NOW, for your review. WOW. I must say this was one of THE best reviews I have ever read on any book... Seriously. I LOVE how you wove your story about a story. Beautifully written sweets.

    I am glad you took your new friend home. Sometimes books or other objects CALL to us. They know we need them. Most times we just WANT pretty things, but not NEED them. I have been in that mode a lot lately... LOL. I WANT EVERYTHING, but need very little.

    But in your case the need overpowered the want. The story obviously touched you because you never could have written such a review otherwise.

    Nicely done, sweets...

    I've missed your bright disposition, sense of impeccable style, and grace...

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    1. Hello Michael,

      Thank you so much! Honoured by your wonderful feedback. I love that you enjoyed reading it. And I'm always chuffed when you stop by. Some books definitely call to you, I think this dust jacket just seduced me. Lush, the pair of us. Hope you are well, shall pop by shortly to check out that FANTABULOUS workspace!

      Txo

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  2. Hi Talei!

    Loved reading your views on this book. You made it sound intriguing. Thanks for posting.

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    1. Hi Nas, really pleased you enjoyed! Thank you for stopping by!

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  3. Oooh, it sounds so good. Going on my to-read list. Come to Portland and visit me and I'll take you to Powell's which isn't as old as Hatchards, but somehow seems just as much of a fixture.

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    1. I'd love to visit Portland and Powell's! Sounds fab. Enjoy Silent House, if you read it, do let me know your thoughts on the story.

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  4. Looks awesome. Love the cover too.

    .........dhole

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  5. Hello darling! I'm not a Pamuk fan myself but I know that feeling so well-- of holding a treasure- that book that holds secrets and promise and mystery. I could almost feel it again as you wrote. I do love writing that leaves something to me, that allows me to fill in the blanks- keeps me enthralled and bed tossingly restlessly involved (at least it seems like that was where you were going...?) Anyway, a good book is just great, isn't it? And one that has me writing in my own head while I am reading is the best.

    Hope you're week is wonderful and that life is good!
    xoxox Danette
    I haven't had any bubbly in a while- time to pop open a bottle, I'm thinking!

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    1. Hello Lovely Lady! Always good to fill in the blanks. A good book is a treat, a great book is something else. Hope you are well too. Have a fab week! * clink clink* xo

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  6. Sounds good, I have a feeling I would like it. Used books stores are the best aren't they?

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    1. You probably would. Used bookstores are great. This store is the oldest bookstore in London and it sells new books, lovely to wander through too.

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  7. Wow, what a compelling review! I love the title.

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    1. Thanks Talli! So very glad you enjoyed it. ;-)

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