Book review: The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak


Published by Viking

Richard III’s reputation has been fatally overshadowed by his possible involvement in the disappearance of the two young Princes in the Tower.

Yet the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire routinely began their reigns by despatching entire kindergarten loads of junior relatives as a sensible precaution against civil strife and nobody seems to have batted an eyelid.

Elif Shafak’s seventh novel opens with one such massacre of the innocents.

The Architect’s Apprentice tells the story of a young Indian mahout, or elephant keeper, who rises to become the valued assistant to Mimar Sinan, a prolific builder, who was a contemporary of Michelangelo and possibly his equal in artistic achievement.

Shafak is the most widely read female writer in Turkey, and with good reason as she is gifted with a fabulous ability to evoke the sights, smells, achievements and terrors of a city where East and West have always met and mingled in astonishing ways.