25 comments on “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak | Book Review

  1. Beautiful review, Callum!! I love that you wrote “the execution is almost uniformly clumsy, leaving me with the distinct impression that it’s a brilliant book trapped inside a good one”, it expressed how I feel about this book perfectly. It’s a wonderful idea but the execution… uhm. Have you read other books by the author? I was thinking of picking up another, but her writing style put me off a little. Also, characters remembering their own births will never not be a scene I want to skip and that adds nothing at all to the story.

    • Thank you so much, Naty! 😊 I’m glad I wasn’t alone with this one. It’s always frustrating when excellent ideas are held back by lacklustre execution.

      I haven’t read anything else by the author either. I may give her another shot at some point, but I can’t say I feel compelled to rush out and grab another one right away after this.

      And thank goodness you agree about characters remembering their own births! It’s such a specific pet peeve, but it always irks me!

      • I also agree with you on all your points, especially on Shafak’s “push for beautiful writing”. She tried so obviously to please with her “beautiful” writing and “important” messages, and make her book feel “significant”, but all her intentions were just too obvious for me and I especially agree with you about her characters appearing a caricature as a group.

        I did read one other book by the author – “The Architect’s Apprentice” and I suffered through it. It wasn’t good and too superficial for my taste, and frankly – a mishmash of different things, with the author, yet again, trying to make her book grandiose “Arabian Tales” by including all the expected messages. Having said that, I have to admit that, if I were an 11 year old girl, it would probably have been my favourite book.

        • Perhaps she just won’t be an author for me then. She undoubtedly has some great ideas and intentions, but as you said, she lacks a certain level of subtlety when it comes to execution.

  2. Wonderful review, Callum. You articulated what worked and didn’t work for you quite well. I was struck by your description of the excruciating detail of scenes making apparent her “push for beautiful writing”. I’m reading an earlier work of hers, “Three Daughters of Eve” (2017), and your sentiment is still apt—she has a tendency to overwrite. Still, I’m liking the novel itself so far. I’m glad you still ended up being invested in the story despite its flaws. 🙂

  3. Shafak is one of those writers I would like to like, but never will – 10 Minutes 38 Seconds, in particular, struck me as sentimental, and you’re absolutely right about the tonal disconnect of the buddy-flick second section.

  4. It lost me here: “Not only do we have the main character recounting her own birth” – WHY do authors do this?!?!?! I also find the book’s central concept incredibly uninteresting, which is why I never felt compelled to reach for this one during Booker season – I just can’t get behind these ‘in the moments before they die’ books. Crossing my fingers that I will not have to read this for the WP.

    • Thankfully I was able to appreciate some of its merits despite its obvious flaws, but my gut tells me you really wouldn’t enjoy it, so fingers crossed for your sake it isn’t longlisted! lol

  5. Hmm, this sounds disappointing. I had high hopes for this one. I loved your review, though, and now I have the mental image stuck in my head of the brilliant book inside, struggling to get out! 😉 Most likely, I will still read this one, perhaps with more realistic expectations now.

  6. “A brilliant book trapped inside a good one” is the BEST description for this story! I didn’t mind the birth part so much because I had the impression that Leila was recounting what she’d been told rather than what she supposedly remembered, but now that you mention it, I’m less sure. I agree wholeheartedly with all of your other criticisms. There were certainly things I loved about the book as well, but the writing weighed it down. I think I fared a little better for having seen so many disappointed reviews before starting, and I ended up pleasantly surprised that I didn’t actively hate the book, but I still wasn’t fully convinced. Excellent review! 🙂

  7. I completely understand being frustrated with a book that has such potential, but clumsy execution! I’m glad that in the end you were still happy you read it. There’s nothing worse than trudging through that rollercoaster and thinking “… That’s IT?!”

  8. Pingback: February Wrap Up | Callum McLaughlin

  9. My thoughts exactly. I love the way Shafak talks of Turkey, Istanbul. I loved the way she brought alive Leila’s character. However, I wish she’d invested more in the other characters and their bonding. They never could come together as a group. Also Part II was SUCH a let down. ‘Slapstick’ is the perfect word to describe it.

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