The Architect’s apprentice – Elif Shafak

Set during the Ottoman Empire’s greatest period, Elif Shafak’s novel transcends all the ontologically engrained dichotomies : East/West, Self/Other, Domestic/Foreign etc… Jahan, arrives in Istanbul with the long-awaited White Elephant “Chota”. He starts working for the Sultan as Chota’s tamer in the Palace’s menagerie. His bright mind and quirkiness quickly impress the Palace’s master architect, who decides to recruit him as one of his four apprentices. Jahan’s life turns into a journey of self-discovery, yearning for knowledge and learning experiences. Shafak’s ever-impressive writing brilliantly captures the apprentice’s admiration for Istanbul. ⁣⁣
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A surprisingly unexpected suspense accompanies the story as the apprentices are faced with extremely demanding and unrealistic deadlines for construction projects imposed by Suleiman the Magnificent. The Ottoman palace is full of intrigue and adventures, yet Jahan’s challenges go as far as travelling to Rome to learn from the great Michelangelo. Following Jahan’s trials amidst the exotic and thrilling atmosphere of the Palace takes us deep into the vibrant and enchanting time of the Ottoman Empire. ⁣⁣
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Reading this book was a deeply immersive experience that I enjoyed until the very last page. Shafak’s story doesn’t stop at a mere historical narrative, rather, she used architecture as a metaphor for building lives characterised by the very aesthetic pillars represented in Jahan’s constructions: harmony, balance… ⁣⁣I highly recommend it!! ⁣⁣

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