As the snow begins to fall, a journalist arrives in the remote city of Kars on the Turkish border. Kars is a troubled place – there’s a suicide epidemic among its young women, Islamists are poised to win the local elections, and the head of the intelligence service is viciously effective. When the growing blizzard cuts off the outside world, the stage is set for a terrible and desperate act . . .
Orhan Pamuk’s magnificent and bestselling new novel evokes the spiritual fragility of the non-Western world, its ambivalence about the godless West, and its fury.
Bookclub Review Summary:
After twelve years of political exile in Germany, the poet Ka returns to Turkey with a journalistic commission to report on strange events in the small city of Kars near the Russian border. On the eve of municipal elections a worrying number of “headscarf” girls have been committing suicide. During the course of his investigation into both the deaths and the elections Ka becomes increasingly aware of the dangerous undercurrents that lie beneath the surface of this otherwise nondescript and poor Turkish town: tensions are running high between the political Islamists and the ‘enlightened, pro-Western’ Turkish military. The novel details Ka’s developing tragic-comic relationship with various members of both these groups. Much of the novel takes place over a three-day period following a set-piece military coup. Pamuk’s novel explores such themes as politics, love, ethics, religion and poetry, as it gradually exposes some bitter emotional truths concerning the poet and the snow covered old-world city of Kars.
What the group thought:
I think that this book has been our most controversial book. When I asked each person to vote, some voted 1 out of 5, and others 5 out of 5. So the general figure doesn’t truly reflect the opinions of some. I have to say that we discussed the book for almost 2 hours; in conclusion this is a good book club book.
Here’s what the group has to say:
The writing style was identified as Latin American magical realism, and the words used to construct the story were simple. Humor and absurdity were also identified by the group. We were very much impressed by his talent; he is a great novelist and his arrogance was evident in his writing.
In general the characters were not liked by the group, and he tends to go into much depth about the female characters. The protagonist was identified as being weak, jealous and tries to be noble but somehow he never succeeds.
However the group also felt that Pamuk really does deal with some interesting topics e.g. East meets West, political problems within Turkey and Pamuk view on violence.
Did he write this book with a Western audience in mind? Who was he inspired by? Was this Rushdie? or is this another trendy Martin Amis, who deals with dark issues so well ? Is he being ironic? Is this autobiographical?
One of our book group member identified that Pamuk uses symbolism throughout the book, I agreed with her and thought it was cleverly identified.
All taken into account the group enjoyed the book, and rated it 3 ½ out of 5!