Sunday, September 29, 2013

Review: Black Milk: On Motherhood and Writing by Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak is claimed by Orhan Pamak to be 'the best author to come out of Turkey in the last decade.' Her most recent novel Honour, reviewed on this blog last April, was my introduction to her writing and I must say that I became an instant fan ( Black Milk: On Motherhood and Writing was first published in 2007 in Turkish and the English translation version was published in August. It makes compelling reading and is exactly what it says it is- a consideration of how motherhood affects the writer, not just Shafak but other women writers through literary history.

The resume reads:
     "Postpartum depression affects millions of new mothers every year, and - like most of its victims -         Elif Shafak never expected to be one of them. But after her first child in 2006, the internationally           bestselling Turkish author remembers how, 'for the first time in my adult life ... words wouldn't             speak to me'.

     As her despair finally eased, she sought to resuscitate her writing life by chronicling her own                experiences.

     In her intimate memoir, she reveals how she struggled to overcome her depression and how                    literature provided the salvation she so desperately needed."

Shafak's recognition that we are all made up of a combination of characters is illustrated by the conversations she has with her four finger-women; Miss Highbrowed Cynic, Little Miss Practical, Milady Ambitious Chekhovian and Dame Dervish. As she comes to terms with her womanhood and her maternal side two new finger-women whom she has kept in check, Mama Rice Pudding and Blue Belle Bovary, surface to challenge her in relation to her own self-identity. Her finger-women struggle in the art of coexistence and it is for Shafak to learn how to manage them.

Although a potentially 'heavy' subject, Shafak's book is not heavy reading, but rather compelling and thoughtful, drawing the reader in with the interesting research on relation to other women authors experiences and her own journey into marriage and motherhood.

Black Milk: On Motherhood and Writing by Elif Shafak is published by Penguin 


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    1. Hi, Thanks for your message and I'm glad that you enjoyed reading the review.