Skip to content

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak

As seen:

By Elif Shafak

avg rating

10 reviews

Find your local library.

Buy this book from to support The Reading Agency and local bookshops at no additional cost to you.

‘In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila’s consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away…’

For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .


07 Oct 2019


I didn't expect the first chapter to end with the death of the main character (a sex worker) in a dust bin in Istanbul. I loved the first chapter and was expecting the 5 friends to solve Tequila Leila's murder. Instead I got an introduction to her 5 friends. Each friend had survived their own harrowing past and lived their life as they wished in a society that was not as accepting as my own.
Leila could have been portrayed as a tragic figure but instead she was a strong, caring, passionate woman, all her friends had their strengths as well as weaknesses.
I waited for this book to grip me as it had promised to do so with the first chapter but it never did. It is beautifully written and an enjoyable read but not gripping.

07 Oct 2019


I fell in love with this book, I felt it captured a glimpse of something we couldn't have experience yet, a peep into what may happen when we die, and made me approach the story differently, and I enjoyed it all the more for it. The story of ‘Tequila Leila’ life, while tragic, was also uplifting. Her philosophies on life are all the more extraordinary for all that she suffered, and are reflected in the friendships she had.

07 Oct 2019


I really enjoyed this book, it was beautifully written and the vivid descriptions of Leila's life and her harrowing experiences were raised in a way that didn’t make it a hard read; often balanced with humour and descriptors of the sights and smells of Istanbul.

At first I wasn’t sure about the non-linear format of the first half, but this didn’t make it confusing and reflected the heartbreakingly chaotic nature of Leila's life. With a strong female character at the centre of a range of diverse characters, a key theme of the book was inclusion and the importance of relationships in supporting this. The political climate in Turkey throughout Leila's life was woven in to the story and it would have been interesting to be given more of an understanding of what was happening for my own knowledge. Interesting concept of someone's brain still functioning for a short time after they have died. I would definitely recommend this.

07 Oct 2019


M-I really enjoyed the novel. Elif Shafak is such a great story teller that we as the readers really feel for her strange characters. These characters are from such painful and differing backgrounds that it is very unlikely that the average reader will have experienced anything resembling their lives, yet we were emotionally involved with them, especially of course with Tequila Leila. Shafak's device of allowing Leila in her last moments to recall the details of her life, even her birth, allow us to understand finally, how Leila has ended up in a rubbish bin on the outskirts of a city. Her life demonstrates how as a girl in Turkey in the late 20th century she could be constructed and controlled by the adult males in her life. Abused and ignored, her strength allows her to survive, although she realises that her only hope of survival is to work as a prostitute. However, it is her personality, generous, forgiving, yet knowing that draws incredible loyalty from her friends.
Her exceptional life ends suddenly, and as she dies she remembers that her overriding wish is that her life would mean something that the world wouldn't ignore her passing.
Page 5- "..that our individual impact on the order of things, and life would go on just the same with or without us. Now a That, she had always thought as terrifying".
Perhaps this is really only Shafak's message. She shows us the shape-shifting quality of life in Istanbul, with obvious inequalities and corruption, and we know that Leila's life will not change anything. But by providing such an entertaining and gripping vehicle, her novel, Shafak herself may help change to happen.

D- I particularly liked the way Shafak described a way of life in Turkey and combined it with some recent significant historic events, such as Taksim Square massacre. I also liked the suspense of wanting to find the way in which Leila died. Short chapters made it very easy to read. But I felt the 2nd part of novel not as good as the first part. I felt that the writing was not as "polished." However, taken as a whole, it is one of the best novels I have read recently.

03 Oct 2019

[email protected]

I am really glad we were given this book to read for the Booker Prize event in our Book Group. There were many things I valued about it. Firstly, it gives a voice to people generally unheard. Leila was deceived who her Mum was, and grows up in home fraught with anger and tensions. I loved the way the author has taken her own feelings about friendship, what it brings to our lives, and then turned these into the 5 friends. Secondly, I learned about Turkey, and what it is like to live in a country I have never visited. I learned a lot from the way the author brought in historical events. In that sense, reading it made me feel I had done something valuable for my political education about the world. Lastly, I liked the way the book pivoted your emotions from despair to laughter. At the end I thought of the 5 friends like a Wacky Races, it was hilarious, but brilliantly brought home how people live on through others. I really liked this way of conveying complex layers of society and how they shape us, but we can assert some control. She describes the Peregrine Falcon that accepts captivity and a hood - but ultimately the hood, which could be ideology, religion, politics, might be both a comfort and a source of fear. I would recommend this book.

02 Oct 2019


"I found the book moving and very vivid and liked the way the different sections were very vivid and liked the way the different sections were very different in mood and structure, moving from Leila's life to the farcical fast moving rescue of her body and release into the sea. I enjoyed the easy the vignettes of Leila's childhood were each introduced with a taste or smell as memories often are. But these were not all her memories eg her mothers account of Leila's birth. This structure if obviously important to the author and gives the book its title but If found it intriguing rather than convincing.

02 Oct 2019


The murder of a prostitute did not sound very promising, but I really enjoyed the book and the way it stirred the emotions of the reader. I was so angry with the Uncle who abused Leila from 6 years old, and her family who didn't support her, but knew the Uncle was the abuser. So Pleased she had happiness with her bunch of quirky friends and with D/Ali.
The slapstick humour , when the friends went to find her body (I did hope they would re-write her with D/Ali).
Anger again that the justice as "the father" was "well connected ", Sadness wehen D/Ali died and Leirla murdered.
Well written and easy to read- would reccommend

02 Oct 2019


A really good book, definitely a page turner. Very clever writing, encompassing a life lived retold when dead in 648 seconds. The author's origins give insight into Turkish culture and history from an angle not normally written about by a native Turk for fear of offending and its repercussions.
Honour killings, prostitution, poverty, the struggle to change the society lived etc.
Highly recommended.

02 Oct 2019


When I started reading this , it reminded me of "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold, written from he post of view of the murdered person. The difference with this was that Leila's whole life literally ran before her in the minutes after her death highlighting the important people in her life. It is a book of 3 parts and the second part "The Body" made you understand that Leila's friend who were all misfits in society, displayed the true meaning of friendship, loyalty and love.
A thoughtful and at times a difficult read, which challenges your perceptions.
And a fabulous book cover!!

23 Sep 2019


I enjoyed reading this book. It was well written and told the story in an original way from the point of view of a dead person, reliving moments in her life through the memories of a dead brain. The chapters about the five friends was illuminating on the plight of women and misfits in modern turkey but did not feel 'preachy'.
the final parts with the friends retrieving the body focused on true friendship and 'The Soul' brought a well rounded ending to the story bringing Leila the piece and happiness she didn't have in her life.
I think this is a story that focuses on the strong bonds of true friendship winning through adversity.
I would recommend it.

Latest offers

View our other programmes