Book Reviews

Book Review: 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak (57/50)

Image via Goodreads


(From Goodreads)

‘In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila’s consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away…’

For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .


WOAH. As I’m writing this, I literally just finished this book, and I still don’t know what to say. The book is so mesmerizing, and so unique, I love it.

I initially heard of this book when it was first announced on the Man Booker longlist (and then, what do you know, it was shortlisted!) It’s the only book I plan on reading for this award, and I really hope it wins (announced on the 14th of October)

Don’t be fooled by the small size – it looks short, but it’s packed with heartbreak and disaster. We all know that the main character, Tequila Leila, dies, but how did she die? What happened? What are the events that influence the course of her life? What happens with her friends after her 10 minutes and 38 seconds are up? These are all answered in due course, but not without a few tears shed in between.

What really stood out for me was the lesson we all know, but many of us may not have grasped its meaning yet – that your family is not necessarily by blood, but the people you choose as your family. This band of misfits and social outcasts are Leila’s family, and their tight-knit group are all these 6 (now 5) people have in this world.

The themes explored here are important, and the historical references of horrific times are not to be forgotten. I loved how Elif writes, I love the characters, I loved the time period, I loved the representation. This book is sooooooo good, and if you read just one or two books on the Man Booker prize list, please include this one!

Final Grade

5/5. This was honestly a homerun for me, I couldn’t have asked for a better book!

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