This is a story which tells of the love of the street-seller, Mevlut, for both the Istanbul in which he sells his yogurt and boza and the wife who he married in unusual circumstances. The novel's aim in one sense is encyclopaedic: it traces the city's development over the past forty three years and becomes a metaphor for the yogurt seller's mind. But to what end?
Mevlut, the character, will remain with me, with his simplicities, his melancholy and his genial faith. But I wonder if that is enough to justify the title, 'A strangeness in my mind', for the strangeness may not seem so strange to the reader and may not seem enough to justify a 600 page book (my interest flagged in the middle, though the ending revived it). If the novel occasionally suggests a magic realism in its treatment of Mevlut's dreams and phantasies, it in fact provides nothing of the kind and quickly reverts to an at times plodding realism. And it is hard to see any point to Mevlut's belief in the reality of his dreams or in the ability of his voice to carry emotion to the buyers. We are not in the same territory as Rushdie's, where Salem almost persuades us of his telepathic communion with the other children of midnight. We do have a sense of a man caught between two worlds, the old and the new, but nothing much comes of it.
The narrative point of view is interesting. The main narrator tells his story in the past tense, but is interrupted by (mainly) members of Melvut's own family who want to clarify or supplement the narrative, which they do in the present tense. That could be a nice game but we don't ever learn the identity of the main narrator (he seems to have been Mevlut's schoolmate), nor are we invited to speculate on that fact.
So, all in all, I'm not sure that this is a novel which has much to say, or raises interesting questions. I read it as a rather earnest 'tranche de vie', and wanted something more.
- Hardcover: 624 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (24 September 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0571275974
- ISBN-13: 978-0571275977
- Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 5.2 x 24.2 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 717 g
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews