Shafak, Elif. “Three Daughters of Eve”, Bloomsbury USA, 2017.
A Forgotten Love
Peri is a married, wealthy, beautiful Turkish woman, who while on her way to a dinner party at a seaside mansion in Istanbul has her purse snatched by a beggar. While wrestling with the beggar, a Polaroid photograph of three young women and their university professor falls to the ground. It is a relic from a past; a love of a love affair that Peri has tried desperately to forget.
When she arrives at the party, Peri tries to navigates the tensions between East and West, religious and secular, rich and poor. During the course of the opulent dinner, terrorist attacks occur across the city. At the same time, Peri is dealing with the loss of the picture and her memories that it brings up. It was taken when she went to Europe for the first time Competing in Peri’s mind however are the memories to attend Oxford University. As a young woman there, she became friends with Shirin, a charming, fully assimilated Iranian girl, and Mona, a devout Egyptian-American. Their arguments about Islam and feminism found focus in the controversial and charismatic Professor Azur, who taught divinity in unorthodox ways. As the terrorist attacks come ever closer, Peri remembers the scandal that tore them all apart.
Elif Shafak is the number one bestselling novelist in her native Turkey, and her work is translated and celebrated around the world. In “Three Daughters of Eve”, Turkish writer Elie Shafak has given us a moving story about the profound changes of the modern world and we begin to think where we stand regarding religion and spirituality. We are taken into Peri’s journey as she is at the dinner party. Through flashbacks we learn about her adventures at Oxford and we realize that is filled with contradictions, just like life itself. What happened between her and her two female friends an a male professor is at the center of the story.
We move between conversations in the present about the political situation in Turkey, and in the discussions about the nature of religion and belief in the flashbacks. The professor has a seductive allure and students come to him all of the time to discuss the philosophy of religion. More about the plot would be unfair to write about but I do want to say that we get some interesting insights into life in Turkey.
Peri grew up in a dysfunctional family where most of the tension came out of the struggle between traditional religious devotion versus interest in modernization and rational science. Once at Oxford, she once again found herself dealing with the struggle as her professor tries to find out something about the true nature of God. We also see universal truths dealing with love, family, and the pressures that come with being a female.