Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | December 14, 2011

molly’s cafe reading– come get some books!

Last month and this month I have read a variety of books. Here’s my book report, dear high school teachers of long ago. (don’t know why some of the fonts got smaller…)

One book that came into my hands recently was the Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. This is a really thick book– 1500 pages. I have learned that there are three groups of people related to this: those who have never heard of it, those who have read it (a small group), and those who have started it and given up. I am in the last group. I found it really hard to follow and I decided it was too hard work to keep on with it. It’s in the café if you want to be in one of the last two groups.



I also read Married to a Bedouin by Marguerite van Geldermalsen. I have never been to Petra, though it is certainly on my list, and it was interesting to read about it when it was occupied by real people. The book is not scintillating reading and the friend who gave it to me was disappointed that it didn’t get into how they produced their three children, but it was a nice story of intercultural love. It is hard to image how a woman from New Zealand could meet and marry into a Bedouin tribe, as the differences would be immense. However, she did this and loved her husband for the 30 years they were married, until he died.


A customer gave me a copy of Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart. It was a combination of love or infatuation, science fiction, and prophecy. He wrote about all the young people who communicated with each other with their apparats with occasional verballing and constant online shopping for see-through clothes, among other things. The story is set in a time when the U.S. is being taken over financially by the Chinese and then is cut up into pieces by other countries as well, including Norway. Part of the story talks about protesters occupying a park in New York City. Sounds familiar? This book was published last year! The protagonist, Lenny, son of Russian Jewish immigrants, falls in love with Eunice, daughter of Christian Korean immigrants. It is told through Lenny’s diaries and Eunice’s email/blogs. I found it amazing because now the U.S. is in financial trouble and it and Europe on going on bended knees to beg the Chinese for bailouts. The man who gave me the book is a banker, and he commented that sometimes novelists are more predictive of the future than economists. Kind of scary! It is a pretty good story but mostly it was interesting for how it presents a possible future of even more limited relationships.


The same person brought me a copy of The Gaze of the the Gazelle by Arash Hejazi. This book has actually not been published yet and this was an uncorrected proof, so the teacher in me wanted to get out my red pen. However, it was a readable piece about growing up in Iran. Now Hejazi is in exile from his beloved country, which the reader understands, as he is very outspoken about the lies and disappointments that occurred and still occur in that country. The story was set off by the death of a young girl, Neda, who died in his arms after being shot by an undercover Islamist revolutionary guard. His friend shot a video of the death even through his horror and they were able to get it out to YouTube, where it went across the world. It was an interesting read and such a pity that someone who loves his country and his people had to leave it.


Tales from the Expat Harem, edited by Anastasia Ashman and Jennifer Eaton Gokmen has been around for a few years, but I just recently read it. I found the writing to be rather self-conscious and I really dislike the title. I know it is good for marketing, but it just feeds into the misconceptions that many people have of the harem in Turkey. In fact, the tales are nothing like the misconceptions and often are heartfelt stories. I am acquainted with quite a few of the women in the book and was more interested in the stories for that reason. Especially the stories of cross-cultural relationships are important, as no matter where a couple lives, the difficulties of marriage are affected even more by having to deal with different cultures and possibly religions. It is worth reading, but not a great work of art.

Now I am on a popcorn book phase. One I read recently is Robert Goddard’s Caught in the Light. A photographer, Ian Jarrett, meets a mysterious woman in Vienna and falls in love (or obsession). He goes back to England, gets out of an already rocky marriage, and finds this woman has a convoluted personality which also involves identification with a woman from the early 1800s who actually invented photography. Along the way there are some murders, a lot of clues for a wild goose chase, and a sort of open ending. It’s a good story and satisfying because you don’t have to think about it much– good for bedtime reading.


All the Colours of Darkness by Peter Robinson was my next book. It was interesting but not gripping. It involved the murder suicide of a gay couple. It turned out that the man who was murdered was a spy and so MI6 was involved in all their sneaky ways. It was a good story but it didn’t make me hungry to read more by this author.





A book that I started some time ago and then lent out came back to me, so I finally finished it. This was Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson. It was published in 1990, so some of the recent references are a little dated, but as usual Bryson takes a complete and somewhat humourous approach to various issues of language, including swearing and word play. I like reading about language, so I enjoyed it, and I think that teachers of English should also read it to give more background to why English is the way it is.



Finally for now, I read The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. I had read a couple of other books by her, and this one has quite a different topic and a different format. An American woman is asked to write a report for a publisher about a book and is pulled into the book by its topic and by its writer. Shafak’s book alternates between various characters in the book within the book and Ella. It was an interesting look at the Sufi dervish Shams of Tabriz, who became the companion of Rumi but was killed by jealous people. The whole thing makes Ella look at love in her life as a wife and mother. The friend who gave me the book said she could not get into it, but I really enjoyed the stories in it and highly recommend it.


That’s all for now folks! Come by and get some books for your winter reading.



  1. How do you have time to read?

    • sometimes in the cafe and definitely before bed. buffer zone! i am lucky to have so many books around.

  2. As a Canadian new to Istanbul, and Turkey I general, (3 days I ), I am really enjoying your blog and so excited to visit the cafe. I think 8 lira for hospitality and a meal is fantastic, I love that you have book recommendations as sometimes I forget to delve outside my regular genres, I love that you host events and hope to meet some people this way and I also love that you stand up for the underdog – well done, you! I think you do Canadians and women proud. Cheers!

    • thanks for the kinds words nicole. i hope you stop by the cafe soon.

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