Three Daughters of Eve
Elif Şafak's novel The Daughters of Eve focuses on Peri, a young Muslim Turkish woman caught between the secular and religious worlds. Peri grows up caught between her religious mother and secular father; when she goes to Oxford, she finds herself living with one devout Muslim girl and one agnostic (they call themselves "The Believer, the Sinner, the Confused" — Peri is the Confused). Three Daughters of Eve was a tale of many things: searching for God, of the relationship between Islam and feminism, a look at Turkish society today, Islamist terrorism.... there's so many layers to the story that I probably need to re-read.
As Safak explained to the Hürriyet Daily News “This is the story of a woman’s quest for love, faith, God, identity, happiness. It is a very contemporary book that deals with some of the major issues of our time. There is also a sharp criticism of Turkish society and bourgeoisie." The story alternates between two timelines: the present day, Istanbul 2016, where Peri is attending a dinner party with her husband and daughter, and the past, where Peri grows up in a household where she's torn between her Mother's faith and her father's secularism, and goes off to attend Oxford.
Oxford is where everything changes for Peri.
"Though she was neither brave nor eccentric, a seed of unorthodoxy had been sown in her heart somewhere along the journey of her youth, germinating unnoticed, waiting to burst through the topsoil. Nazperi Nalbantoǧlu, always proper and careful and balanced, yearned to transgress, yearned to err." (282)
There are parts of the book that dive into philosophy (when Peri takes a class called "God" with a young, handsome professor named Azur) which can be a bit too esoteric for the causal reader. As Shafak explained in the aforementioned interview, "I’m not interested in religion. I’m interested in God. To me questions are more important than answers. I’m not claiming to have found the answers. I just happen to love asking questions. That’s what the novel as a genre does well: To ask difficult questions and to reflect the multiplicity of voices and interpretations; to give more voice to the silenced and to the forsaken."
The entire story was so nuanced in its approach to women and Islam, faith in general, and modern Turkish politics. An important (and super timely) read. Rating: ★★★★★