Top positive review
Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak
21 August 2017
The novel Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak is an engaging read. While it does not rank among Shafak's best pieces of work, it has an easy style and is certainly readable.
The plot revolves around protagonist Peri's time as an undergraduate student at the University of Oxford, where she befriends Iranian atheist student Shirin, and religiously conservative Mona. All three enroll on a seminar by Professor Azur that focuses on God. The book flits between Peri's time at Oxford in 2002, and her life in Istanbul in 2016 as a housewife and mother.
Peri's character as a timid, uncertain and confused teenager is pretty well developed. However, Shafak does not spend enough time rounding out the other characters. She delves into Azur's history towards the end of the book, but Shirin and Mona are left as an unproblematic dichotomy. Even though Shafak uses the poststructuralist terminology of "self" and "other" in discussing the Shirin/Mona binary opposition, she does not bother to scratch the surface and find out what lies beneath their seemingly uni-dimensional personalities.
Much like Peri's character, Shafak is timid about engaging with the loaded issues of religion, politics and mental health. She tiptoes around them, failing to capitalise on the fact that Peri went to Oxford in 2002--right after the September 11 attacks--which could have been an opportunity to engage more seriously with the Islamophobia that the events of 2001 triggered in the West.
Even so, I would recommend Three Daughters of Eve to fans of Shafak's writing. The book contains many nuggets of insight, and is worth a read.