“10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World” by Elif Shafak

Thanks to Penguin Books UK and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

This is a book of two parts. In Part 1, Tequila Leila, a Turkish prostitute has been murdered and thrown into a dumpster. It takes 10 minutes and 38 seconds for the last remnants of her consciousness to fade away. In this short amount of time, she reflects upon her time on this earth and those she shared her life with.

In Part 2, Leila’s friends mourn her death and go to desperate lengths to ensure she gets the send off she deserves.

There’s lots of things about this book that make it really great. The writing is beautiful and rich and I’ll definitely be reading some of the author’s other works. The sights, smells and sounds of the novel’s Istanbul setting are captured perfectly (you WILL get hungry reading this book) from the historic neighbourhoods to the seedy underbelly of the modern city. The rich and diverse culture and people who live and work are personified in Leila’s motley crew of friends and acquaintances, and it is these relationships which form the beating heart of the story.

There are some tough themes in here, child sexual abuse, transphobia, discrimination and violence against sex workers, dehumanisation of refugees amongst others. Nothing ever feels sensationalised however, these are simply the issues that the characters face in their daily lives.

Despite all this, this is a beautiful novel about friendship and love and a woman who despite everything, forged her own path in life.

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