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*As mentioned on BBC's Desert Island Discs*
'A fascinating exploration of faith and friendship, rich and poor, and the devastating clash of tradition and modernity' Independent
Set across Istanbul and Oxford, from the 1980s to the present day, Three Daughters of Eve is a sweeping tale of faith and friendship, tradition and modernity, love and an unexpected betrayal.
Peri, a wealthy Turkish housewife, is on her way to a dinner party at a seaside mansion in Istanbul when a beggar snatches her handbag. As she wrestles to get it back, a photograph falls to the ground - an old polaroid of three young women and their university professor. A relic from a past - and a love - Peri had tried desperately to forget.
The photograph takes Peri back to Oxford University, as an eighteen year old sent abroad for the first time. To her dazzling, rebellious Professor and his life-changing course on God. To her home with her two best friends, Shirin and Mona, and their arguments about Islam and femininity. And finally, to the scandal that tore them all apart.
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.