It is 1975, a perfect spring in Istanbul. Kemal and Sibel, children of two prominent families, are about to become engaged. But when Kemal encounters Füsun, a beautiful shopgirl and a distant relation, he becomes enthralled. And once they violate the code of virginity, a rift begins to open between Kemal and the world of the Westernized Istanbul bourgeoisie. In his pursuit of Füsun over the next eight years, Kemal becomes a compulsive collector of objects that chronicle his lovelorn progress—amassing a museum that is both a map of a society and of his heart. Orhan Pamuk’s first novel since winning the Nobel Prize is a stirring exploration of the nature of romance.
Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2009: The story of Kemal, the half-hearted industrialist who is the hero of The Museum of Innocence, Orhan Pamuk's first novel since he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, is a deeply private one, built around an often inexplicable obsession that he attempts to justify to the reader. In honor of Füsun, the poor, beautiful cousin he had a short affair with when he was 30 and engaged to another, he has hoarded a museum of relics, both of their time together and of the much longer time when, like Gatsby drawn by the green light on Daisy's dock, he hovered at the edge of her life, held in check (but yet held nearby) by the proprieties of Turkish society. From Kemal's passion Pamuk constructs a masterful meditation on time, desire, and possession, saturated with the details of the city of Pamuk's youth: the brand names, the film stars, the streets, the intricate social relations between classes and between modernity and tradition. It's as if the museum of the title was built in honor not of Füsun but of Istanbul, circa 1975. --Tom Nissley