cover image Three Daughters of Eve

Three Daughters of Eve

Elif Shafak. Bloomsbury, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-1-63286-995-1

Shafak’s ambitious novel (after The Architect’s Apprentice) follows Peri Nalbantoglu, namely her memories of childhood and a scandal in which she was involved long ago at Oxford. On her way to a dinner party in the present, Peri has a violent encounter with a vagrant on the streets in Istanbul. She escapes, but when a photograph of her with her two university friends, Shirin and Mona, falls out of her purse during the struggle, it leads her to reminisce. She thinks back to her days at Oxford when she met Shirin, a vivacious, popular student. Peri decided to take a class with Shirin’s beloved mentor, professor Anthony Azur, who teaches a seminar about God. Azur inspires love, hate, and obsession among his students and colleagues, and Peri soon falls for him, eventually causing a rift between her and her friends. The novel’s debate on the nature of God presents opposing viewpoints through the various characters: Shirin, like Peri’s father, becomes an atheist, while Peri’s roommate Mona brandishes a different kind of feminist-tinged Muslim devotion than Peri’s zealous mother, and various students at the seminar voice their opinions along with Azur. Pronouncements from newly awakened college kids in Azur’s class sometimes tip into tedium. Events jarringly come out of left field as current-day Peri tries to reconcile with Shirin and Azur, and the narrative itself ends abruptly. But readers interested in debates about the nature of God will find the book intriguing. (Dec.)