10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World


n the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila's consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away...'

For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life - friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .

Our Review

I was very excited to read this book because I have loved Elif Shafak ever since I read Three Daughters of Eve.

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World focuses on the life of Leila. When the reader is first introduced to her, she has just been murdered and her body is lying in a dumpster. Leila is aware she is dead but in the last 10 minutes and 38 seconds before her body shuts down completely, she has flashbacks to significant moments in her life.

“Her name was Leila.

Tequila Leila, as she was known to her friends and clients. Tequila Leila as she was called at home and at work, in that rosewood coloured house on a cobblestoned cul-de-sac down by the wharf, nestled between a church and a synagogue, among lamp shops and kebab shops – the street that harboured the oldest licensed brothels in Istanbul.”

There is a unique feel about Shafak’s writing, something that exists with few other authors. I can’t quite describe what I mean but it is definitely a positive thing.

“She now realised with a sinking feeling that her heart had just stopped beating, and her had abruptly ceased, and whichever way she looked at her situation there was no denying that she was dead.”

In life Leila was clearly quite a witty character, one of the ways this is illustrated is in the naming of her cat.

“Her cat was stone deaf…she had named him Mr Chaplin, after Charlie Chaplin, for, just like the heroes of early cinema, he lived in a silent world of his own.”

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World shows the reader glimpses of a different Istanbul than the one that is well publicised.

“The Istanbul that Leila had known was not the Istanbul that the Ministry of Tourism would have wanted foreigners to see.”

Through the life of Leila and her best friends, otherwise known as ‘The Five’, we see multiple seedier and more disturbing sides to the city. Each of her friends is partially based on real people and the Cemetery for the Companionless is very much real.

The book not only shares Leila’s life story but also that of the members of The Five- Sabotage Sinan, Nostalgia Nalan, Jameelah, Zaynab 122 and Hollywood Humeyra.

For me the passages detailing the circumstances of her birth and her childhood were some of the most interesting. Leila was born to her father’s second wife but raised by his first and in ignorance over who was her real mother.

“And so it was that the baby girl, born to a family of one husband and two wives on January 1944, in the city of Van – ‘the Pearl of the East’ – was named Leyla Afife Kamile. Such self-assured names, grandiose and unambiguous. Big mistakes as it would turn out. For while it was true that she carried the night in her eyes, befitting the name Leyla, it would soon become clear that her middle names were far from apt. She wasn’t flawless, even to begin with; her many shortcomings ran through her life like underground streams. In truth she was a walking embodiment of imperfection – once she figured out how to walk, that is. And as for staying chaste, time would show how, for reasons not of her own doing, that would not exactly be her thing either.”

There were elements of the book which were quite disturbing and hard to read, things hinted at in the passage above and which I will not detail as I don’t wish to include any spoilers in my review. However, they are well written and sensitively handled.

This book is a real gem.


Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

  • Currently 4.8/5

Read & Shared 192 Times.

I hope you enjoyed this book review, please consider sharing it with others.

Get In Touch

Please feel free to leave a comment to this book review below. Or even leave your own review if you like.
If you run a blog and/or have posted a review to this book, a Q & A or general author interview online you can always add a trackback to it here and following moderation we'll add a link to it below.