Set in 1970s and 80s Istanbul, The Museum of Innocence recounts the life of Kemal, a wealthy heir who is infatuated with Fusun, an 18-year-old shopgirl and distant relative. He is about to become engaged to the aristocratic Sibel when he stumbles across his long-lost cousin. He soon falls in love with her, embarking on a passionate affair – involving an obsession with hoarding objects that remind him of her – that threatens to ruin his established life in Istanbul’s high society.
The beautiful intertwining of historical and social details in this book kept me fascinated until the very last page: before reading The Museum of Innocence, I knew nothing about Turkey’s contemporary history; now, I feel as if I lived through it. The intriguing, yet a little disturbing romance that blossoms between Kemal and Fusun somehow manages to last the entire 83 chapters without seeming drawn-out or tiresome to read. My visit to the actual Museum of Innocence in Istanbul – crammed with an exhaustive array of curated objects from the story – reinforced the realism conveyed by the novel.
I would recommend this book for people who are interested in Turkey’s contemporary history, but would also like to enjoy a beautiful yet devastating love story. Some might find the pace slow, but there’s no doubt that it’s engaging.
My Ratings (out of 10 As):