Book review–Black Milk–on Motherhood and Writing-Elif Shafak

Black Milk – On Motherhood and Writing by Elif Shafak


ISBN 9780241966259

RRP £8.99

Black Milk is the affecting and beautifully written memoir on motherhood and writing by Turkey’s bestselling female writer Elif Shafak, author of Honour, The Gaze and The Bastard of Istanbul which was long-listed for the Orange prize.  Postpartum depression affects millions of new mothers every year, and- like most of its victims- Elif Shafak never expected to be one of them. But after the birth of her first child in 2006, the internationally bestselling Turkish author remembers how “for the first time my adult life . . . words wouldn’t speak to me”. As her despair finally eased, Shafak sought to resuscitate her writing life by chronicling her own experiences.  In her intimate memoir, she reveals how she struggled to overcome her depression and how literature provided the salvation she so desperately needed.

‘An intimate, affecting memoir . . . Her passion for literature is contagious, and her struggle with postpartum depression and writer’s block reinforces how carefully all of us must tread. Beautifully rendered, Shafak’s Black Milk is an epic poem to women everywhere’

Colleen Mondor



My thoughts:

I am pretty sure that I am going to like a book when I start bookmarking passages that I like from the first pages.

But that is what happens when you are pregnant.  You can run away from everything and everyone but not from the changes in your body.

A depression can be a golden opportunity given to us by life to face head-on issues that matter greatly to our hearts, but which, out of haste or ignorance, have been swept under the carpet.

I want you to stop thinking.  Stop examining, stop analyzing and start living the experience.  Only then will you know how being a mother and being a writer can be balanced.

I kept bookmarking passages throughout the whole book.

Shafak uses examples of influential writers to illustrate the challenge that some women writers have faced in the past.  Some of these women have chosen to bear children and write.  Others chose only to write.  She deals with her inner turmoil by turning to her Thumbelinas or finger women whose names are Dame Dervish, Milady Ambitious Chekhovian, Little Miss Practical, Mama Rice Pudding, Miss Highbrowed Cynic and Blue Belle Bovary.

Shafak discusses her experience of post natal depression and it is a very engaging read.

I want to be a brilliant, perfect mother but I end up doing everything wrong.

I would urge women to read this even if you do not have children or are considering becoming a mother as it makes for an interesting read of a highly intelligent woman documenting her inner struggle of a changed identity.

Review copy courtesy of Penguin

Elif Shafak is the acclaimed author of The Bastard of Istanbul and The Forty Rules of Love and is the most widely read female novelist in Turkey. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She is a contributor for The Telegraph, Guardian and the New York Times and her TED talk on the politics of fiction has received 500 000 viewers since July 2010. She is married with two children and divides her time between Istanbul and London.

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  • This sounds like such a good and moving book, Cathy. I really connect with stories that are so open and honest. I especially like this quote, “A depression can be a golden opportunity given to us by life to face
    head-on issues that matter greatly to our hearts, but which, out of
    haste or ignorance, have been swept under the carpet.”

    • It absolutely is Krista. I think that is why I liked it so much because it was so open and honest.

  • LindyLouMac

    Elif Shafak has done something very important by writing this, drawn attention to post natal depression. Good review Cathy.

    • Thank you Linda. She most certainly has.