A Strangeness In My Mind by Orhan Pamuk

As someone who enjoys a bit of themed travel reading I find myself frequently drawn to authors whose work focuses upon a particular country or city. Orhan Pamuk’s relationship with Istanbul is certainly one of the great examples of such a focus and A Strangeness in My Mind is one of his greatest love letters to Istanbul.

The novel follows Mevlut Karata, as he leaves his tiny Anatolian village to move to Istanbul and sell the drink boza on the street. Naturally he will become rich along the way. And while things never quite seem to work out for the hapless Mevlut, he accidentally elopes with the wrong girl and the whole fortune and riches thing evades him, he still manages to find the blessings in his life. Mevlut’s story is told from a variety of perspectives, both from a third party narrator and members of his sprawling family, and this is a very endearing and entertaining set up.

Pamuk’s novel is an easy, pleasant read, but one that does not shy away from the complexities of the ever-changing Istanbul and although Mevlut is the hero of the piece, the protagonist is certainly the city. This is a beautifully written story with richly drawn characters and so deeply invested in Istanbul that you can practically smell the city as you turn the pages.

Isobel Moore