Despite minuscule flaws, Elif Shafak’s Three Daughters of Eve has the ability to draw the reader into the world of religious conundrums, difficult dilemmas and personal reflection.
Peri Nalbantoglu encounters a violent vagrant on the streets in Istanbul all because of her stolen purse. Though scatted, she gets through the misadventure and continues with her dinner party plans at a friend’s residence. While physically present at the party among Istanbul’s socialites, Peri continues to delve in the past, thanks to a fallen photograph during the tussle.
Throughout the evening, she recalls the days when she first met Shirin, a vivacious, popular student who had praises for her beloved mentor, Antony Azur. The intriguing professor with the ability to inspire love, hate and obsession among his students and colleagues is the subject of Peri’s love interest – which unfortunately creates a rift between the protagonist, Shirin and Mona, the other friend in the photo.
Her university days in Oxford was also the place where religious perspectives were affirmed. Shirin and Peri’s father are atheists while her mom and Mona professed to be proud Muslims, albeit in their own, different way. Then, Peri stood between the two sides, balancing delicately between both divides – and continues on that fence until present day Istanbul.
The novel goes from the past to present, revealing snippets of the nature of God through views of different characters as well as Peri’s desire to get closure and reconcile with Shirin and Azur.
Readers with living experience in any modern Muslim-dominated country are likely to draw parallels between their country and Shafak’s Istanbul. Three Daughters of Eve is an intriguing tale of love, friendship, family life and religion written in an easy, breezy style.