"Shafak writes with vision, bravery and compassion . . . a stunning portrait of a city, a society, a small community and a single soul." - The New York Times Book Review
A deeply humane story about the cruel effects of Turkey’s intolerant sexual attitudes . . . Shafak is a master of captivating moments that provide a sprawling and intimate vision of Istanbul . . . Ultimately, “10 Minutes” isn’t really about death, but the persistence of love . . . Leila’s ragtag friends, scorned and mocked by polite society, can’t possibly triumph over the forces of religious and political corruption, but they and Shafak manage to create something truly subversive: a community of devotion beyond the reach of state or mosque." - The Washington Post
"A beautifully written tour de force of exemplary storytelling . . . Its powerful insights into Turkey’s past and present challenges and the world today make it highly recommended." - Library Journal, starred review
"Extraordinary . . . a piercing, unflinching look at the trauma women’s minds and bodies are subjected to in a social system defined by patriarchal codes." - The Guardian
"Ever-courageous Turkish writer Shafak creates another resilient woman protagonist at odds with Turkey’s repressive society . . . [A] seductively imaginative, rambunctiously humorous, complexly tragic, and lyrically redemptive tale . . . Shafak's motley and compassionate cast embodies both the brutal consequences of tyranny and the power of individuals to undermine it in a full-tilt novel set in a fabled city, a swirling microcosm of human complexity and paradox." - starred review, Booklist
"Gripping . . . Through flashbacks to [the protagonist's] life in modern-day Turkey, minute by minute, you’ll feel her wonder, her joy, her pain. You’ll feel empathy for a girl whose life is upended from the day she is born. It’s companionship with other Istanbul transplants that saves Leila from complete despair. And as you get to know Leila’s other friends on the margins of society, you find yourself rooting for them in the unlikeliest of endeavors." - NPR's Book Concierge
"Shafak portrays Istanbul in all its glorious chaos against the backdrop of civil unrest that culminated in the Taksim Square Massacre of 1977. Despite being harassed by Turkish authorities for her depiction of sexual violence, the author uses the megaphone of her 12th novel to further expose female exploitation and sexual abuse. In this way she succeeds in giving a voice to the voiceless." - Shelf Awareness
"This is a vividly realized and complicated portrait of a woman making a life for herself in grueling circumstances, and of the labyrinthine city in which she does so." - Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Lyrical and often magical . . . a love-letter to Istanbul." - The Economist
"A bold step forward by Turkey’s most significant woman writer . . . Elif Shafak is enormously gifted." - Counterpunch
"Elif Shafak's audacious, dazzlingly original storytelling brings Istanbul's underworld to life via the vivid recollections of sex worker Tequila Leila, recently dumped for dead in a rubbish bin . . . A work of fearless imagination, the story takes the reader into the vertiginous world of its irresistible heroine, whose bloody-minded determination and fierce optimism make her an unforgettable character whose death, albeit foretold, still comes as a shattering blow. Courageous and utterly captivating, this telling novel is a testament to the power of friendship and of the human spirit." - The Booker Prize panel
"A heartbreaking meditation on the ways in which social forces can destroy a life. Elif Shafak can be unsparing, lyrical, political, intimate... Several novels live in this one, and all of them are moving, generous and elegantly written." - Juan Gabriel Vásquez, author of THE SOUND OF THINGS FALLING and REPUTATIONS
"Elif Shafak brings into the written realm what so many others want to leave outside. Spend more than ten minutes and 38 seconds in this world of the estranged. Shafak makes a new home for us in words." - Colum McCann, author of LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN
"Haunting, moving, beautifully writtenand based by an extraordinary cast of characters who capture the diversity of modern Turkey. A masterpiece." - Peter Frankopan, author of THE NEW SILK ROADS
"[Elif Shafak is] one of the best writers in the world today." - Hanif Kureishi
"Simply magnificent, a truly captivating work of immense power and beauty, on the essence of life and its end." - Philippe Sands, author of EAST WEST STREET
"A work of brutal beauty and consummate tenderness" - Simon Schama, author of The Story of the Jews
"A vivid carnival of life and death, cruelty and kindness, love, politics and deep humanity." - Helena Kennedy, author of Eve Was Shamed
"A rich, sensual novel . . . that gives voice to the invisible, the untouchable, the abused and the damaged, weaving their painful songs into a thing of beauty." - Financial Times
"Beneath the lush scene-setting and romantic storytelling . . . are strident calls to challenge fundamentalism and misogyny in the Middle East." - The Times
"Lush, evocative and compassionate." - Mail on Sunday
In a novel circling a murdered woman's last moments as she recalls key incidents from her life, Shafak (The Three Daughters of Eve, 2017, etc.) highlights Turkish society's treatment of women and outsiders.
Tequila Leila, a middle-aged sex worker, lingers at the border between life and death inside a metal garbage can on the fringes of Istanbul—to which Turkish-born Shafak has written a highly ambivalent love letter; lyrical prose embraces the sensual, sordid, and corrupt city she no longer visits for political reasons. Speaking of sensual, Leila's final minutes are structured around remembered tastes, from the salt on her skin as a newborn to the single malt whiskey sipped with her last customer before recklessly getting into a car with strangers. The flavor of watermelon returns her to a childhood complicated by confusion over her birth mother's identity and irreparably damaged by an uncle's repeated sexual abuse beginning when she was 6 in 1953. In 1963 Leila faced an arranged marriage while mourning her younger brother's death, events associated with goat stew. Instead she ran 1,000 miles away from her hometown to Istanbul and was quickly trapped into prostitution. More taste memories follow her life as a sex worker as well as her happy marriage to a leftist artist, cut short by his death during a protest march. Tastes also represent the five friends central to Leila's life and their individual stories of being mistreated, victimized, and/or made to feel invisible. Sexual abuse, political corruption, and religious fundamentalists' intolerance have been the tropes in so many Shafak novels that her outrage here, however heartfelt, feels shopworn. And her plotting can be overwrought. Yet Shafak's ability to create empathy for her cast of sex workers and social outcasts can be irresistible, especially when a character is allowed more complexity, like Leila's oldest friend, Sinan, who hid his love for Leila until her death.
An uneven mix of charm, melodrama, polemics, and cliché that doesn't represent the prolific Shafak at her best.