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10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  46,728 ratings  ·  6,020 reviews
An intensely powerful new novel from the best-selling author of The Bastard of Istanbul and Honour

'In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila's consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away...'

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Hardcover, 312 pages
Published June 6th 2019 by Viking (first published June 2019)
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Amy Lenzo This whole book was Queer in the broadest sense of the word as it was about people living outside social norms (like Coral says in her response). But …moreThis whole book was Queer in the broadest sense of the word as it was about people living outside social norms (like Coral says in her response). But much of the actual narrative was also centred on LBGT characters. LOVED this book.(less)
Emily Buckley The fish is actually a betta, so it will be a link to the one that was released when Leila was born & meets again once her body is “laid to rest”.

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.09  · 
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Elyse  Walters
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I finished this book a few days ago....( haven’t read any reviews yet)....and it’s unusual for me to wait 3 days before writing a review.
Have you ever felt you have so much to say - you don’t know whet to begin?
Ha...perhaps there’s a club for people like us?
It’s a fantastic discussion book!!!
Well, I’m on vacation - aware of holiday-distractions - but this is a book I’d personally love to engage with others to discuss.

Perhaps if I bang my head against the wall - the right words at the right t
Nat K

"To the women of Istanbul, and the city of Istanbul, which is, and has always been, a she-city"

I love that this is Elif Shafak's dedication for her book. It is oh-so-apt.

Many, many reviewers have spoken of the significance of the book's title both in depth & eloquently. So I'll not re-visit its' significance.

What I will say is reading this was extremely emotive. A squeeze to the heart.

This is Leila's story. And one that you should read. She recounts memories of her life, from her birth, to a you
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-releases
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World is all that remains in the life of Tequila Leila, a sex worker who has been murdered, her body unceremoniously dumped in a wheelie bin in Istanbul.

As her brain shuts down, Leila recalls her life in its entirety. These recollections – covering one woman’s life from birth to death, the family who disowned her and the friends who came to be her greatest support, against a backdrop of key moments in Turkish history – form Part One: The Mind.

In Part T
Oct 26, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
after every ES book i read, i immediately want to book a flight to istanbul. she has such a way of capturing the raw beauty of the city, its history, and its culture. any friends willing to let me visit? :P

i loved the atmosphere that is created in this story. i could really visualise both the challenges and successes a woman might encounter living in turkey, which made really care for leila. which is why i preferred the first half of the book (which explores key moments in leilas life before she
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you read the synopsis of the plot, you may think it sounds strange and rather unappealing ... While reading the novel, you will feel emotionally exhausted and at the same time you will recall what friendship means, the friendship Leila was continually offered even after her brain shut down completely and her soul left her body.
Leyla, her group of friends and Istanbul and the main protagonists, and the worlds are of different nature, the individualism versus the strict rules imposed by the soc
Even before I read this novel, I was surprised to see it on the Man Booker longlist based solely on my experience reading Shafak's - The Three Daughters of Eve, which I enjoyed, but found imperfect.

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World has a good title and a somewhat original premise - as it's told, in the first part anyway, from the perspective of Leila, a prostitute, who's dead or dying, so she's got 10 minutes and 38 seconds before her brain has no activity. The author uses this device
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-east
Pleased to see this made the Booker Prize 2019 longlist!

Elif Shafak is a bestselling novelist known for her stories of strong female characters, immigrants and minorities. She follows this trend in her latest novel '10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World' depicting a story of Leila. Leila, known as Tequila Leila, is a prostitute in Istanbul who is killed at the start of the book and her body ends up in a rubbish dump. After being physically dead, Leila's brain remains active for another
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
LONGLISTED (and hopefully shortlisted) FOR THE 2019 BOOKER PRIZE.

Leila knows she is dead. Not from the fact that her body is lying in a waste bin, but from the facts that her heart is no longer beating, and her breathing has stopped. Her brain however is still, “brimming with life”.

In life Leila had been a prostitute. Tequila Leila was the name she had given herself. She was well known to the authorities and knew that they would have no trouble identifying her body once the sun came up and it wa
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-booker, uk, turkey
Now Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019
This riveting tale has two protagonists: The women of Turkey and the city of Istanbul. Right at the beginning, we meet Leila, a prostitute who was attacked and then left to die in a metal rubbish bin on the outskirts of the city. The title-giving 10 minutes and 38 seconds are the time span in which her brain slowly shuts down, one last time re-collecting her life in numerous flashbacks - these vignettes make up the first half of the novel (and in the con
Nada Elshabrawy
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, english
Not as good as Daughters of Eve. But the life of Laila Tequila is beautifully told, as usual.
Joanne Harris
An extraordinary novel: tender, sensual, compassionate, inclusive and steeped in atmosphere and detail, this is a love letter to Istanbul, to tolerance, to friendship. Read it now.
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Now shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize after having been re read following its longlisting - my final comment proving prescient - and with additional comments added.

The book takes its cue from research that shows (as a medical examiner in the book reflects during an autopsy) which “observed persistent brain activity in people who had died …. for as much as ten minutes and thirty-eight seconds.”

The subject of the autopsy is Leyla Akarsu, a mid-40s (albeit claiming to be ten years younger) Pera
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣

A girl is dead. Or dying. Or dead. Or on the threshold of … A sneak peak into an entirely strange world.

We get a view on how things get results entirely different from the ones envisioned. So very many topics addressed: families, relations, identity, perception, religion and how it sometimes develops into something else, scary and foreign. This all is delivered in a package I couldn't resist. Incredible.

Her name was Leila.
Tequila Leila … (c)
she might take offence and playfully h
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
A metaphor dense ode to outsiders and Istanbul - 4 stars
Rules are rules. Even children knew this was not true. Rules were sometimes rules. At other times, depending on the circumstances, they were empty words, absurd phrases or jokes without a punchline. Rules were sieves with holes so large that all sorts of things could pass through; rules were sticks of chewing gum that had long lost their taste but could not be spat out; rules in this country, and across the entire Middle East, were anything
Julie Ehlers
Sep 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
What I'm going to remember most about 10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in This Strange World is its vivid sense of setting and character. I'm ordinarily not a fan of a lot of description, but in this case it really pulled me in, made me feel at home in Istanbul and among its people. That's not an easy thing for a writer to pull off, and it counted for a lot. The book also had an unusual structure that I initally appreciated, but eventually the structure got in the way of the story, the book began to drag, ...more
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A giant note of gratitude to Collin and Nat K. for their phenomenal reviews of this book. How could anyone not want to read this after reading their thoughts?
Elif Shafak shares that researchers have observed brain activity in those who just died. Some last as long as 10 minutes and 38 seconds. What happens in this span of time? Tequila Leila connects her memories, as she lies dying in a dumpster, with scents. Her sense of smell, still present, floods her with memories of self and those of her fi
The human brain has been found to remain active up to 10 minutes 38 seconds after death. This scientific fact, as also mentioned in the book, acts as the premise of the story of 'Tequila Leila', and her friends.

Tequila Leila, as she is known amongst her peers and customers, is a prostitute in her forties, lying in an alley in Istanbul, her body murdered, her mind racing through her memories in its last minutes left on the earth. Things from the deepest corners of her memory come back to her cle
Sonja Arlow
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019-read

”Istanbul was not a city of opportunity but a city of scars

Istanbul was an illusion. A magician’s trick gone wrong.

Istanbul was a dream that existed solely in the minds of hashish eaters”

The book gives a birds-eye view of the outcasts of Istanbul’s society but it almost felt as if the author was using a checklist. We have a disgraced prostitute, a revolutionary, a dwarf, a transvestite, a singer, an illegal immigrant…... They felt as if they were there to represent a specific socio-economic issu
Dec 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I find Elif Shafak's books to be eloquent no matter the subject. She has perfected the art of writing like a poet.

Leila, the main character has had a more than complicated childhood. She's experienced horrendous things at the hands of those that were suppose to love her, and now she needs to find an out. She decides to run away and move to Istanbul, the city of opportunities.

She, along with her 5 friends, have experiences and stories that make up this beautifully written story. Leila, falls in
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019

I will put this whole review in spoiler tags for now, so that those of you who will be discussing it face to face can avoid reading it before we meet.
Editing to remove spoiler tags after face to face discussion.

This was my first experience of reading Elif Shafak, a writer I have heard very mixed things about, but one I have seen give a fairly impressive Goldsmiths lecture last year. I was pleasantly surprised, and came quite close to awarding another book.

Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Elif Shafak is a big old romantic with a heart of gold and a rose tipped pen. She writes from the heart but speaks for those, in Istanbul, Turkey and the wider world who's voices have been muffled, silenced and go unheard and undocumented every day. In this latest offering, I see the idiosyncrasies of her past novels, mysticism and spirituality smothering the reader in their message of love and eternal life. The central setting of this story in the seventies may seem dated, but what has changed ...more
Renee Godding
5/5 stars

5 stars to this extraordinary novel, that completely swept me off my feet.
Having read some reviews by other people, I can see how it has its minor flaws, but to me personally , this book came quite close to perfection.
10 minutes and 38 seconds in this strange world is a beautifully crafted homage to a life forgotten by most, but remembered by a few close friends, that carried an important message and managed to touch me on an emotional level.
Ron Charles
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
“10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World” is a deeply humane story about the cruel effects of Turkey’s intolerant sexual attitudes. Better yet, it’s shortlisted for the Booker Prize, which, one hopes, will bring even more pressure on the Turkish government to stop harassing this immensely talented artist.

The opening of “10 Minutes” is grim. It’s 1990, and our heroine, Leila, is a prostitute stuffed in a dumpster on the outskirts of Istanbul: “She now realized with a sinking feeling that her
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Booker Prize Longlist 2019. Shafak’s powerful novel tackling sexual violence in Turkey resulted in the Turkish authorities launching an investigation into Shafak and her work. What was their bizarre reasoning? Apparently, if a writer pens a fictional account that includes sexual violence, the writer must be condoning that violence. Does that mean that these same officials are investigating/prosecuting actual cases of sexual violence? Of course not!

The year is 1990, Laila Akarsee’s heart has just
Paul Fulcher
Aug 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, booker-2019
In a direct rebuttal to the title of her fellow nominee Margaret Atwood's The Heart Goes Last, the central concept of Elif Shafak’s Ten Minutes Thirty Eight Seconds In This Strange World is inspired by a medical paper to the contrary published in 2017. A team of Canadian doctors observed brain wave activity, similar to that seen in people in deep sleep, in one patient, whose life support had been turned off, for 10m38s after their clinical death. (For the other three patients studied, the brain ...more
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: booker-19
This is my first novel by Elif Shafak and I doubt it will be my last. For the most part this was an immensely enjoyable read, marred only by a wobbly change in tone in the last third.

The story of Tequila Leila read to me like a dark fairy tale morphed with the Victorian era idea of the "fallen woman". (view spoiler)
Alice Lippart
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fantastic characters and excellently captured setting.
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While reading this I was probably at 3 stars until until…until…until I got to Part Two of the book in which Leila’s five friends get together to give Leila a proper burial.

The only reason I was going to give the book 3 stars rather than a lower rating was because up until Part Two, I thought the writing was good (i.e., Part One, The Mind). I thought things were being drawn out too much and hence why the book, to me, was not into 4 or 5-star territory. But then comes Part Two—The Body, and it alm
Jenny (Reading Envy)
A sex worker in Istanbul has been murdered, and as her brain releases her life, the reader is transported to specific memories and stories. Her life is revealed alongside five close friends (like a Turkish cast of Rent) who play a bigger role in the second half of the story.

This is on the Man Booker Prize longlist for 2019, but I must say it isn't the best book I've read by this author. Still it is quite readable and is based on an interesting structure.

I had a review copy from the publisher th
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Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist and the most widely read female author in Turkey. She writes in both Turkish and English, and has published seventeen books, eleven of which are novels. Her work has been translated into fifty languages. Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she has taught at various universities in Turkey, the US and the UK, including St Anne's Colleg ...more

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