Writer: Şebnem İşigüzel (translated by Mark David Wyers)
Date of Publication: April 16th 2020 (first published January 1st 2000)
Rating: 5 stars
”Some of us die before the story ends, some of us die long after the story has ended, and some of us die right at the very start.”
Istanbul, 2015. A girl has finally had enough of the society she lives in, her highly dysfunctional family, her troubled mother’s pain, a school that doesn’t understand anything beyond forcing tyranny down the students’ throats. After an act of violence that costs the lives of teenage students who were protesting for peace and equality, our heroine decides to rebel. Disillusioned and with the possibility of death in her thoughts, she climbs a tree in Gülhane Park with the intention to stay there until the end. Whatever end…
This is one of the most moving, thought-provoking novels you’ll ever read…
”People are nothing more than the accumulated stories of others.”
İşigüzel has created one of the most memorable young protagonists in recent Literature. A girl that knows what she wants even though she claims the opposite, firmly faithful to her ideals, with a clear, pragmatic view of the world and how it should be, a lover of Literature and writing, a rebel in heart and spirit, a thinker trying to find a way out. The writer weaves a story for adults and young readers through a vivid combination of true events that shook Europe and the reality of the teenagers of the world who share the same dreams and insecurities. The difference is that many teenagers experience the results of being governed by a tyranny, however covert it may be. In The Girl In The Tree, it is anything but.
”How can I dress up the pain of a hurt heart?”
The girl comes face to face with troubles ranging from seemingly unimportant problems to serious domestic issues. The death of her favourite singer is the trigger that brings her anger and frustration to the surface. İşigüzel makes excellent use of modern pop culture and connects it to literary references to fairytales and myths, to Austen, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Proust, as Literature is the great love of our protagonist and the only source of light in her life. The writer provides an extremely accurate commentary on writing, focusing on its redemptive qualities. Our heroine shares excellent remarks on what today’s audience likes to read, on how quality is slowly disappearing, unseen in the crowd of naked front covers and YA mass-marketing that fills the young heads with utter rubbish. The young woman stands between the Scylla and Charybdis, censorship and narrow-minded teachers that serve a dictatorship.
Young love and a glimpse of a better life struggle for fulfillment. When there is no freedom, no law to protect women’s rights, a discussion of politics is unavoidable but you won’t read a political commentary from me. A tyrant is a mirror of his society and that is all I am going to say on this matter. I admired the writer’s honesty and bravery on extremely sensitive issues such as the Gezi Park protest, the Kurdish war, the Armenian Genocide, and the 1955 Istanbul pogrom when Greeks, Armenians, and Jews were (once more) persecuted, violated and massacred. One more time when my people fell victims of the barbarian mob…
This is the voice of a highly intelligent, educated, spirited girl. Raw and poetic, this is a novel that deserves to find itself among the finest reads of 2020.
”I wonder if the dead can see us. I mean, when the people we love depart from this world, do they come back sometimes, watching us as we go through this adventure we call life?”
Many thanks to Amazon Crossing and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.