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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition