My thoughts so far on Elif Shafak’s The Flea Palace

Initially I was slow to start reading The Flea Palace. I can provide several reasons to explain myself; all of them equally valid. Mainly it was because I was distracted: I went through a severe book hangover after reading The Blind Assassin, and could only manage to read something simple, like The Adrian Mole Diaries by Sue Townsend. I was also distracted because a lot of valuable energy went into completing some personal work, and also wasted some of it in worrying over that same work. Don’t ask why, I just did. Eventually I managed to start reading The Flea Palace.

The first few pages were a tough read. The prose can be a bit convoluted for a reader who is unfamiliar with Elif Shafak’s writing style. Yet I plodded on, hoping the narrative would start making more sense, and all the loose ends will be tied up. So far it seems that that is going to be the case. I have finished reading the expository section of the story, but I wanted to write this piece before I started reading the next section, which seems, so far, to be the main action of the novel.

The exposition was interesting, to say the least. There are three separate stories; all of these are engaging, but the connection between the three doesn’t become apparent until we get to the story of Agripina Fyodorovna Antipova, and how the block of flats – that is the main setting of this novel – was built.

So here I am, waiting to plunge into the main action of The Flea Palace. It better be fun. I believe it will be.

Update on The Flea Palace:

I have, by now, covered about 66% of the book. The prose is still excessively choppy, rather philosophical in places, but the plot has begun to make sense to me. Each chapter is like an internal monologue of the characters who are all residents of the Bonbon Palace flats. Each one of them is wholly sick of the garbage-y smell that permeates the flats. I’m quite enjoying the book at this point and can’t put it down, despite the clunky, choppy writing style. I can’t quite shake off the feeling that this book might be one of Elif Shafak’s earlier works, as The Forty Rules of Love didn’t have such writing. Even though The Bastard of Istanbul had a slightly irregular prose, it wasn’t as bad as it is in The Flea Palace. Still, I quite like the book.

Next book on my reading list is Honour by the same author.


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