Ok, finished this last night. First/gut/reaction: I’m not sure this book was for me. It never just washed over me and took me away– it was intricate and precise, but I want the first read to be plot/language/gorgeous/compelling. Entirely possible that was my fault: I went into this with an analytical frame– trying to prep for a grad literature class, a format I’m great at (if I do say so myself), and I am unable to close read and get swept away at the same time. This is why I’m not great at book clubs– I never feel like I hit the right response. I love books, read all the time, but when it comes to talking about them, I fall into the language structures of academia. Sheer enjoyment seems to be an inadequate response. (This is part of the deep/close/suspicious reading conversation, and I’m working on it, but it’s kind of the hermeneutics of my childhood– makes my approach to a text complicated.)
Ok, enough about that. This book. So Master Illustrator Osman and Black weaseled their way into the grand treasury to look at all the illustrated books, with the (stated) intention of finding the origin of a particular horse’s nostril which was on the illustration found on the body of Elegant Effendi. Much of this section is narrated by Osman as he marvels over the illustrations from centuries past. I think I lost the plot here a bit. Blindness. as a gift from Allah, a reward for a life of service as a miniaturist. A needle that a great miniaturist from the past used to blind himself so he wouldn’t have to go to another shah’s court and change/adapt his art. Osman blinds himself. His motivation through the entire was preservation of this type of painting– if adulturated by Frankish perspective, he thinks it’ll all fall apart (it did).
They find the nostril, it’s from a painting of a horse that had its nostrils slit to allow it to breathe easier when running.
Black, who has been in the treasury with Osman for 2 days, leaves to interrogate the three miniaturists: Stork, Butterfly, and Olive. But he finds out that Shekure, left alone just after their wedding, has returned to her father-in-law’s house, where her brother-in-law (who is a bit nuts) wants to marry her. Esther gets involved, long conversation between Esther and Shekure about what Shekure really wants. Esther notes that she is ready to be a good wife to either of the men, whichever will be the best father to her sons. Perhaps gives some insight into her playing the two off each other, the work she is doing to maintain some power in a powerless situation. I need to consider this a bit more– didn’t really care for this character, and I’m not sure why. It didn’t seem like she understood what she was doing, is this an opposition of head and heart? rational/non-rational? Ends up leaving with Black.
The coffee house has been raided and destroyed by the followers of the preacher, the story-teller was murdered.
Black searches the houses of the miniaturists and interrogates them, looking for an origin of the horse with the split nostril. Ends up with all three in a secret house from an old cult, in conversation he discovers that [? Olive, I think– book isn’t in front of me] was the murderer. The murder didn’t seem that important to me– I guess I didn’t get the stakes of the book. Black blinds him with the same needle that Osman used, that he smuggled out of the treasury. Olive explains his reasoning, then eventually leaves, nearly killing Black in the process.
He stops by the workshop on his way out of town, fleeing the punishment for his crimes. Brother in law cuts his head off.
Shekure narrates from the future that Black never completely recovered, they were happily married, she still sleeps with her children but has sex with Black in the middle of the day. So a happy negotiation of priorities.
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