BOOK REVIEW | The Architect’s Apprentice

BOOK REVIEW | The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak
Review by Mark David Major

(Book blurb begins) In her latest novel, Turkey’s preeminent female writer spins an epic tale spanning nearly a century in the life of the Ottoman Empire. In 1540, twelve-year-old Jahan arrives in Istanbul. As an animal tamer in the sultan’s menagerie, he looks after the exceptionally smart elephant Chota and befriends (and falls for) the sultan’s beautiful daughter, Princess Mihrimah. A palace education leads Jahan to Mimar Sinan, the empire’s chief architect, who takes Jahan under his wing as they construct (with Chota’s help) some of the most magnificent buildings in history. Yet even as they build Sinan’s triumphant masterpieces — the incredible Suleymaniye and Selimiye mosques — dangerous undercurrents begin to emerge, with jealousy erupting among Sinan’s four apprentices. A memorable story of artistic freedom, creativity, and the clash between science and fundamentalism, Shafak’s intricate novel brims with vibrant characters, intriguing adventure, and the lavish backdrop of the Ottoman court, where love and loyalty are no match for raw power. (Book blurb ends)

I enjoyed reading The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak even though it took me a very long time; mainly due to available time but also to the very deliberate pacing of the writing. The Architect’s Apprentice is a historical fiction novel written in a first-person biography style so it does not follow a traditional narrative structure, which does not help the pace of the story. Yes, there is a climax of sorts but it deals with a small part of the massive, magnificent tapestry of Shafak’s novel. Nonetheless, it is woven via its first-person narrator with wonderful descriptions of life in Istanbul during this time. Ultimately, the setting of Istanbul itself during the height of the Ottoman Empire represents the real soul of the novel; not its Indian immigrant narrator. This alone transforms the story into a worthwhile journey, even if it might take you some time to get through this novel. Mark’s Grade:

The Architect’s Apprentice
by Elif Shafak

Paperback, English, 432 pages
Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 31, 2016)
ISBN-10: 0143108301
ISBN-13: 978-0143108306

You can purchase The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak on Amazon here.

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