30 October 2009

Book Review: My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

This is a complicated read. It took me a month to read this, which was somewhat unexpected. So, what is this book about?

My Name is Red is a story about a murder, set in 1600 in Istanbul. An illustrator is found murdered, and the book weaves a story where the reader is kept guessing as to the identity of the murderer. Along with it is woven a story of love and sex, and family relations in the Islamic world.

The book is written in a post-modern style, and after reading this, I understand why the author garnered a Nobel Prize for this book. Every chapter has a different narrator, so the story is told through various points of view. Even atypical narrators are utilized in this story, including a gold coin, a corpse, a picture of a horse, and so on. With that I am impressed with the creativity of the author.

However, it took me a long time before I grew to like this book. Several factors came into play, for this to be the case. First of all, I am not at all familiar with the cultural references that the book has with respect to Istanbul and the Islamic World in the Middle Ages. The fact that there are several narrators also made things complicated, since I had a little bit of difficulty keeping track of who was who in the stream of events. It was after I finished half of the book that I started liking this novel, when the possible murderers were narrowed down to three.

No matter how I do not like the story, however, praise should be given to the structure. This is not just a simple airport novel. This is literature. I had to make full use of my brain when I was reading this. This was no simple read, and it required me to analyze and exercise some critical thinking in order to understand this novel.

All in all, I believe this is a very mature novel. People who only want some swooning mystery or romance will not find this enjoyable. Only people who want something that stimulates the brain will find this a great read. If you're one of those people, then by all means pick this book up.

See my other book reviews here.

(Women Statues, from my Sackler and Freer Collection Series)

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