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Walking on the Ceiling

A Novel
Narrated by: Mozhan Marno
Length: 3 hrs and 48 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
4.5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Summary

"[Savaş] writes with both sensuality and coolness, as if determined to find a rational explanation for the irrationality of existence...." (The New York Times)

"I fell in love with this book." (Katie Kitamura, author of A Separation)

A mesmerizing novel set in Paris and a changing Istanbul, about a young Turkish woman grappling with her past - her country's and her own - and her complicated relationship with the famous British writer who longs for her memories.

After her mother's death, Nunu moves from Istanbul to a small apartment in Paris. One day outside of a bookstore, she meets M., an older British writer whose novels about Istanbul Nunu has always admired. They find themselves walking the streets of Paris and talking late into the night. What follows is an unusual friendship of eccentric correspondence and long walks around the city. 

M. is working on a new novel set in Turkey and Nunu tells him about her family, hoping to impress and inspire him. She recounts the idyllic landscapes of her past, mythical family meals, and her elaborate childhood games. As she does so, she also begins to confront her mother's silence and anger, her father's death, and the growing unrest in Istanbul. Their intimacy deepens, so does Nunu's fear of revealing too much to M. and of giving too much of herself and her Istanbul away. Most of all, she fears that she will have to face her own guilt about her mother and the narratives she's told to protect herself from her memories. 

A wise and unguarded glimpse into a young woman's coming into her own, Walking on the Ceiling is about memory, the pleasure of invention, and those places, real and imagined, we can't escape. 

“Ayşegül Savaş is an enormous new talent who writes with the rigor of Didion and the tenderness of Sebald. Walking on the Ceiling holds the immediacy of youth and the depth of long-earned wisdom at once. Its elegant voice is sure to summon old memories and longings from each reader, relighting them anew.” (Catherine Lacey, author of The Answers

“In Walking on the Ceiling, Aysegul Savas investigates the inability of any story to accurately evoke lived experience—yet her unconventional narrative succeeds in doing just that. Savas’s celebration of the minutest details of Paris and Istanbul is juxtaposed, to devastating effect, against rising political tensions. This quietly intense debut is the product of a wise and probing mind.” (Helen Phillips, author of The Need and The Beautiful Bureaucrat

Walking on the Ceiling is an elegant meditation on grief, identity, memory and homecoming. Moving between Paris and Istanbul, the novel captures the tangle of narrative around history, both personal and collective. I fell in love with this book.” (Katie Kitamura, author of A Separation)

©2019 Aysegül Savas (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

“Nunu calls this reminiscence of M. an ‘inventory’, and that's exactly what Savaş has produced here, rendering with elegant intelligence the minute details of both places and people. That the novel moves in circles, acknowledging that some places can be glimpsed but never really explored, makes it all the more like a long walk through a city one can never quite call one's own. A refined and wistful exploration of the nature of memory.” (Kirkus, starred review) 

“The dislocations of place, identity, time, and truth eddy through Savaş’s elegant debut. . . . Interweaving past and present, Paris and Istanbul, evasion and epiphany in spare yet evocative prose, Savaş’s moving coming-of-age novel offers a rich exploration of intimacy, loneliness, and the endless fluidity of historical, cultural, and personal narrative.” (Publishers Weekly

“Quiet, intense, and moving.” (LitHub)

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  • cemal
  • 09-06-19

Fantastic book!

Fascinating book. Includes great descriptions of contemporary istanbul as well as the ups and downs the city went through in the past two decades. I don’t know how much of a Parisienne Aysegul Savas is, but she most certainly is a true Istanbulite - istanbullu. Able to describe not only landmarks and neighborhoods but also how to enjoy them, down to the type of wish you order for Sunday lunch. She doesn’t hold back from describing the city’s recent uncontrollable growth either, the concrete mushrooms of buildings that sprout, the dwindling hopes of many istanbulites for the future. They are all here in this wonderful book.

I wouldn’t mind staying in 90 minutes of istanbul traffic and get to the “other side” in a non-air conditioned taxi just to be able to walk the streets of Moda or perhaps Yenikoy and talk with Aysegul Savas, the way the narrator talks with her friend M walking through the parks of Paris.

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