Tonight my book club at the West Kildonan Library will be discussing The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak. Shafak, a Turkish author, says her book was inspired by this image of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent which has an elephant in the background. The print created in 1559, during the same time period as the events in the book, is by a German artist Melchior Lorck and is in the British Museum.
Here are four things I found interesting about the novel The Architect’s Apprentice.
Although the protagonist Jahan is a fictional character author Elif Shafak has populated her novel with other characters who are real. Jahan is an apprentice to Sinan the renowned architect of the Ottoman Empire. Sinan oversaw the building of some 500 structures and nearly 200 of them are still standing. Jahan’s love interest is the Sultan’s daughter Mihrimah. She is a historical figure as well. So are the three sultans who are in power during the time Jahan serves Sinan the Royal Architect. In one section of the book Jahan and another apprentice go to visit Michelangelo in Italy.
There are many thought provoking reflections in the book. Here are a three I really appreciated.
“If you carry a sword, you obey the sword, not the other way round. Nobody can hold a weapon and keep their hands clear of blood at the same time.”
“……Jahan understood his master’s secret resided ……… in his ability to adapt to change and calamity, and to rebuild himself, again and again, out of the ruins. Sinan was made of flowing water. When anything blocked his course, he would flow under, around, above it, however he could; he found his way through the cracks, and kept flowing forward”
“Stones stay still. A learner never.”
Jahan’s closest relationship in life is with an elephant named Chota. Jahan arrives in Istanbul as Chota’s keeper and immediately sets about saving Chota’s life. I am not necessarily a big animal lover and will admit that I’ve never understood the deep love some people have for their pets, but I was quite taken with the way Jahan and Chota care for one another, know each other so well, come to one another’s defense, respect each other and provide each other with solace and comfort at crucial times.
And finally at the end of the book Jahan travels to Agra India to help design and build the dome for the Taj Mahal. I have been to the Taj Mahal and my husband made me pose for this photo where I am appearing to hold up the magnificent structure by the top of the dome.