Is it cheating to listen to a book instead of reading it? I’ve always somehow counted it as morally wrong in typical snooty bookworm style. But I had a deadline to read this book, and with a free Audible credit and a lot of time commuting and pottering where I liked to listen to podcasts, etc., listening to Three Daughters of Eve was the perfect opportunity to complete it before I attended an event with Shafak herself for Jewish Book Week.
It was actually a really enjoyable experience to listen to the book, as I am a super fast reader who often skims bits (sorry, I know) and there was something nice and leisurely about taking the time to really engage and think about the material whilst in the middle of the story.
The themes Shafak writes about: religion, faith, difference in opinion between the two, really resonated with the themes of my own writing, so it was really interesting to see how she dealt with them through the narrative, and how she portrayed opposing views of characters. Spoiler: these are the titular three daughters of Eve.
I didn’t really get on with the main character, Peri, as I found her a little wet and annoyingly indecisive. I understand that she was supposed to encapsulate the confusion and frustration of agnosticism but it comes to something when you find yourself genuinely annoyed at a character’s repeated and predictable behaviour. I did however like the structure of the book; with the present day part taking place during the course of an evening and a dinner party in Istanbul, and Peri’s past and story of her time at Oxford woven in between.
The best part of the experience, however, was getting to listen to Shafak talk about her work and her background during the Hot Fiction event of Jewish Book Week, alongside Hot Milk‘s Deborah Levy (incidentally another book I must read!). There’s something fabulous about hearing an author talk about their books, their writing style and their inspiration firsthand, and I really loved the opportunity to find out more about Shafak at the event. Her discussion of the east vs west set against her own Turkish upbringing and atheist beliefs really brought alive the content and themes of the novel for me. I’d been so immersed in the book all week, it was a sort of strange experience to then immediately go into dissection and discussion of it. If only we could listen to the author of every book talking about their work!