Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak
Writer Elif Shafak is, along with Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, the writer to whom westerners look for an understanding of Turkey. Photograph: Lara Marlowe
Three Daughters of Eve
Elif Shafak’s novel cuts between the present-day life of Perin – a wealthy Istanbul housewife – her childhood in the city in the 1980s and her time at Oxford at the start of the millennium, when she was embroiled in a scandal involving an unconventional philosophy professor. The daughters of the title are the protagonists and her student friends: Shirin, a make-up-and-miniskirt-wearing Iranian rebel; Mona, a devout, hijab-wearing Egyptian feminist; and the likeable Perin herself – three very different modern Muslim women.
Turkish-born but London-based, Shafak is the most widely read female author in Turkey and, like other writers, she has on occasion fallen foul of the regime. Her writing in English is a mixed bag, with passages of appealing sensuality and intelligence alternating with sections that are overwrought or clunky and in need of more rigorous editing. At times the women (and indeed the men) here can seem like mouthpieces for ideological arguments rather than real characters, and the ending seems a bit rushed, with too many revelations coming too late.
Despite all that, Three Daughters of Eve is a compelling – and timely – read.