Joanne Payton's Reviews > Honour

Honour by Elif Shafak
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I feel mean giving this book such a low rating but while it deals with the difficult subject matter with sensitivity and empathy it just has too many similarities with the two best-known British novels dealing with the immigrant experience: Zadie Smith's White Teeth and Monica Ali's Brick Lane. The divided sisters motif in Brick Lane is reproduced here, and the central Iskander character is uncomfortably close to Smith's Millat - while his brother Yunus is almost a copy of the same novel's Josh, a naive kid with a crush on a punk chick. Shafak's attempts to write a polyvocal novel flounder against an inability to maintain a consistent style for each character, and there is a serious clash of tones between a kind of magical realism which is more in the style of Hawthorne than Garcia Marquez, and the broad, almost parodic treatment of the squatters, and Iskander's almost buffoonish spiritual mentor - amongst others. This worked in Smith's Dickensian sprawl of a novel, but it doesn't fit with the serious tone of the rest of the book. Like Ali's Brick Lane, the denoument is unrealistically redemptive, leaving little to linger in the mind after reading.

Shafak's real strength is in domestic settings and intimate relationships: I would certainly read another novel that played to these, but 'Honour' feels like old ingredients in a new sauce.
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Reading Progress

August 25, 2012 – Started Reading
August 25, 2012 – Shelved
August 25, 2012 –
40.0% "On kindle."
August 25, 2012 – Finished Reading

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LeAnne: GeezerMom Your last sentence nails it. I havent read Smith but the sister-act does echo Brick Lane closely. That hadnt occurred to me before, but yep. Great review.


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