In the afterword to my edition of this book, Shafak writes briefly (very briefly) that she faced charges in Turkish courts because parts of this book were considered un-Turkish. Perhaps this is not surprising considering that the novel does deal with the relationships between Turks and Armenians, and the Armenian genoicide.
At first glance, the novel centers around two young women –Armanoush and Asya, who are step-cousins. Armanoush is an Armenian American whose mother took Asya’s uncle as her second husband. Asya is the bastard of the title and lives in Istanbul with her mother, her aunts, grandmother and great-grandmother. The two cousins are more alike than first appearances and background indicate.
And that is the point.
The book is about coming to terms with the past because at the end of it all, we are in fact human. Even if we live surrounded by crazy people.
And that is in the charm of the story – the touching zaniness and beauty in the relationship. The rich language, the pictures that are painted with words.
With the sneaky message – that we are far more alike than we know.