Book Review: Honour

Grab your reading glasses and some tissues cos this book has the perfect amount of emotional drama to make your heart ache, yet leave you wanting more. I’ve always been utterly obsessed with anything Elif Shafak writes and how it manages to transform me into a blithering emotional mess within a few hundred pages. This is her third book that I’ve read and it did not disappoint!


The book opens with a strong message as a dedication from the author;

When I was seven years old, we lived in a green house. One of our neighbours, a talented tailor, would often beat his wife. In the evenings we listened to the shouts, the cries, the swearing. In the mornings we went on with our lives as usual. The entire neighbourhood pretended not to have heard, not to have seen.
This novel is dedicated to those who hear, those who see. 

Honour is the tragic story of an honour killing in a Turkish emigrant family living in London. Elif takes you on an emotional journey through her vivid storytelling as she explores the psyche of each and every one of her characters. Elif presents the reader with an intricate tale about responsibilities, parenthood, virtue and honour; all of which represent something completely different for either gender.

Set in London and parts of Turkey, this is a story of a family that keeps on repeating its own history. Elif showcases the culture where it’s acceptable for a man to abandon his family and keep a mistress yet when a woman chooses to follow her heart she’s presented with a rope and expected to do the right thing.

My thoughts:


This book made me cry buckets and made my heart ache, yet I devoured it like Rooh Afzah after an entire day of fasting. I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t put this book down, because some moments were so intense that I had to walk away and take a breather. The incident with the rope with the eldest sister and the question of virtue with the twin were two moments that absolutely broke my heart.

Honour covers a wide range of topics that may seem depressing to most, but in reality are rather bittersweet. That’s probably because they’re too close to home. Honour accurately describes the dark situation that prevails in Pakistan. Women spend their entire lives trying not to be a cause of shame to their family, while men don’t need to try, since they’re the self appointed guardians of the family honour.

It was a name. You could call your child ‘Honour,’ as long as it was a boy. Men had honour. Old men, middle-aged men, even schoolboys so young that they still smelled of their mother’s milk. Women did not have honour. Instead, they had shame. And, as everyone knew, Shame would be a rather poor name to bear.

The book covers the irony of what women can’t do yet is acceptable for men. How a young son can be put in place of the father figure to guard the honour of his mother and sisters. How any action by the woman that deflect from what is expected, may bring shame to the family for generations to follow.

The tragic story makes you wonder about the families who fall victim to crimes like domestic abuse or honour killings; especially the lives of the children who witness the situation. Reading the book reaffirmed my belief that it’s the parent’s behaviour that shapes the child’s personality and his future.

In our culture it’s fairly common to hear about honour killings on the news and witness the hypocrisy of fidelity in society. But we’ve somehow become accustomed to ignoring these things or taking it in stride. But this novel is for those who hear, those who see.


If you like Elif Shafak books, you’re going to love this one. Just keep a lot of tissues and ice cream handy, since this is going to be one overwhelming read.


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