“We must do what we can to mend our lives, we owe that to ourselves – but we need to be careful not to break others while achieving that”.

The main theme in Elif Shafak’s new book 10 minutes 38 seconds in this strange world is kindness and tolerance, or rather the lack of them in this world.

The novel follows the journey of a young girl Leila from her small rustic village in the backroads of Turkey, to the bright lights, fast lanes and seedy underbelly of Istanbul. Here she suffers unspeakable ordeals, but at the same time also befriends a motley crew of vagrants, all trying to find their way in this strange world. Each has a different story, a different background but what is common to all of them is that each one lives on the outskirts of society; never really accepted. Never really loved.


Elif has weaved the story in the beautiful way she usually does. Her words pulse with spirituality and insightful meaning. She has taken up the cause of those who cant stand up for themselves and whom society shuns.

What really stands out for the reader is that humanity and human emotions are the same everywhere, as is bigotry and prejudice even if they have different faces in different cultures. This world ought to be safe place for everyone regardless of race, religion or orientation.

Do read this for all the various themes she has addressed and definitely for her prose.