Viking, £12.99, 352pp. £11.69 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

Honour, By Elif Shafak

Honour, a Turkish-Kurdish family saga set in London, takes Elif Shafak into new literary territory. Shafak is a prolific, controversial and critically acclaimed young Turkish novelist, columnist and academic whose previous novel, The Forty Rules of Love, has been long-listed for the 2012 IMPAC prize. She has been the victim of political harassment in Turkey: a 2006 case against her novel The Bastard of Istanbul, under the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, ensured her global attention as a political figure as well as a literary one.

Shafak had the dubious honour of being the first writer in Turkey to be indicted for ideas expressed in fiction. The current situation is still equally precarious for Turkish writers, with over 147 freedom of expression cases pending in the courts.

With Honour, her ninth novel, her fourth written in English and her first set in London, Shafak joins the growing canon of authors who chart the rich imagined routes of a nomadic city formed by global power-shifts, and the ebbs and flows of human traffic passing through London. She joins writers such as Hanif Kureishi, Zadie Smith, Monica Ali, Aamer Hussein, Andrea Levy, Hanan al-Shakyh and Leila Aboulela, who offer us fictional glimpses of London's Others.

Shafak is a protean writer, a shape-shifter. Her style, technique and voice change significantly from novel to novel and language to language, as she writes both in English and Turkish. The Saint of Incipient Insanities, her first novel in English, deployed a rich American Gothic voice, in contrast to The Forty Rules of Love and its more global, transatlantic style.

Shafak embraces the city in Honour, and writes in an exuberant, occasionally hyperbolic "Ow, can't you shut your bleedin' gob!" London-English. The novel follows three generations of the Turkish-Kurdish Toprak family from Istanbul and the Euphrates to London, and the codes of honour which bind and break them. This is an extraordinarily skilfully crafted and ambitious narrative, with Shakespearean twists and turns, omens and enigmas, prophecies and destinies fulfilled. It weaves time and place: from working-class Istanbul in 1954 to a small Kurdish village by the Euphrates in 1962, Hackney in 1977, and Abu Dhabi and Shrewsbury prison in the 1990s. We are introduced to three generations of the family including Naze, the mother of twins Pembe Kader (Pink Destiny) and Jamila Yeter (Enough Beauty). Adem loves the latter and marries the former, in the name of honour. Pembe and Adem's children are rebellious teenager Iskender, would-be writer and feminist Esma, and dreamy seven-year-old Yunus.

A whole host of minor characters appear, from zany Caribbean hairdresser Rita to Zeeshan the mystic; too many for much more than broad-brush characterisation. There are a few minor historical glitches in Shafak's portrait of 1970s subcultural life, but only picky Londoners of a certain age will notice.

Inconsistencies in characterisation are more troubling than those in historical research. Would Pembe, a conscientious mother, let her seven-year-old disappear for hours on end, find him unconscious on the doorstep late at night, yet continue to allow him the freedom of the streets and fail to spot a tattoo on her young son's body for several months? Does bath night really come round so rarely in the Toprak household?

Honour is lushly and memorably magic-realist rather than naturalistic. A child waits by a river for a passing stranger to name him because his mother believes he is damned; a young girl is given a bowl with a coiled rope in it and left to hang herself. Once the narrative enigmas are resolved, we see how the characters serve the greater whole: everything has a reason. The mapping and intertwining of destinies collectively, rather than any single consciousness, is what really engages Shafak in this novel. Crimes of the heart reverberate across the years, and the Topraks' notion of honour leads to tragedy for all.

Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life