The Bastard of Istanbul is one of the finest works of Elif Shafak that will leave you mesmerized with its astounding storyline.

“Once there was; once there wasn’t.

God’s creatures were as plentiful as grains

And talking too much was a sin….

Many of you might be judging the content inside from its title, but I assure you that you will find more once you start reading.

What is in the story?

The story of The Bastard of Istanbul revolves around 19 years old Asya Kazanci who is Zeliha Kazanci’s daughter. They live together with Zeliha’s other three sisters, mother and a great grandmother in Istanbul, Turkey. None of the ladies are married except Auntie Banu, but she lives with her sisters instead of her husband because of her own reasons. They also have a brother, Mustafa, who lives in Arizona, US and never visited Istanbul in the last 20 years. He is married there with an American woman who has a daughter Armanoush from her first husband, who happened to be an Armenian. Armanoush/ Amy lives with her mother and stepfather in Arizona while visits his father’s family in the other city sometimes. Another reason that he stays in the US because of the curse that runs in the Kazanci family. The curse is about that all of the men of Kazanci family die in their 40s. This curse makes him stay back in the US where he went for the sake of education.

Main characters in The Bastard of Istanbul


Zeliha is the most rebellious woman in the Kazanci family and runs a tattoo parlour. The uncontrollable streak passes to Asya’s personality from her mother. She does not like traditional living standards or norms that her family follows, but she tries to stay away from them as much as she can. She has her own social circle of elders double her age who matches her philosophical mindset. 


Asya is an illegitimate child of Zeliha. The thought of finding her father or getting to know about intrigues her the most. While no one talks about it in the family as they also do not have any idea about the man. BUT, other than Zeliha, there is someone else in the family too who knows about Asya’s father and even Zeliha is not aware of it.

Other highlights of the story

Apart from being controversial in terms of its story, the novel also hit the Turk and Armenian conflicts that occurred in 1915. Elif Shafak faced sentences and hearings for writing this part of history that irked the Turk government and its citizens. 

All in all, the novel is a must-read that will captivate you until the end as you will get to know the purpose of Armanoush’s arrival in Turkey and finally find out about Asya’s ‘father’!

Let us know which book to review next. Meanwhile, read another quick review here.

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