When Zarife aspires
to escape a life of poverty, she becomes upwardly mobile using a combination of
brains and sexuality. Her opportunism quickly makes her one of the wealthiest—and
therefore most respectable—entrepreneurs in Turkey. She learns that status is
attainable if you are prepared to pay the price and that any past indiscretions
can be forgotten as long as you are successful. There comes a point, though,
when she realizes that her chosen lifestyle has a hollowness to it and that she
has lost maybe as much as she has gained. Far from being the heroine who climbs
her way to the top in a simple rags-to-riches tale, Zarife is much more complex
and self-aware: she masters the rules of the game and makes sure that she wins.
As she describes her own ascent, we are made privy to the tacit understandings,
the convenient forgettings and the expedient lies upon which nouveau-riche
society is built. This incisive novel reads more like journalism than fiction:
it is a subtle but powerful piece of social criticism that rings true for
almost any culture today.