A strange, hallucinatory work.



From Turkish novelist Shafak (The Saint of Incipient Insanities, 2004, etc.), a richly layered narrative concerning misfits and how society views them.

The story of a Victorian-era circus impresario improbably named Keramet Mumî Keske Memis Efendi galvanizes the other dramatis personae in this mishmash. Born the only son in a family of six sisters, Efendi has a transparent face, as if made of wax, and his aunt must literally form his eyes into slits. Because of his suffering in a newly modern society where appearances are of supreme importance, Efendi develops an ability to see what others cannot; he resolves to create a theater of spectacles in the city of Pera under a cherry-colored tent where the ugliest creatures will be displayed. One of his most compelling acts is the hideous Sable-Girl, a half-sable, half-human creature who descends from a lineage of 17th-century Siberian trappers. Meanwhile, the narrative cuts to 1999 in Istanbul’s Hayalifener Apartments, where an enormous woman, writing in the first person, recounts her difficulties moving about in society while also living with a man utterly unsuited for her, a dwarf called B-C. Driven by the unwanted attention the couple attracts (they often appear in public incognito), B-C begins to write a Dictionary of Gazes that will demonstrate in entries seemingly unrelated to each other about how everything has to do with seeing and being seen. It will be “like a shaman’s cloak of forty patches and a single thread,” the dwarf notes, though his girlfriend is skeptical and increasingly anxious as the dictionary absorbs B-C’s attention and hinders him from actually seeing her. In the end, the fragments of this imaginative work, riveting in themselves, resist converging into a cohesive mosaic.

A strange, hallucinatory work.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-7145-3121-9

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Marion Boyars

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

Did you like this book?