The novel is the story of an Italian who is taken captive by Turks, and ultimately becomes the property of a man he called Hoja (master). Mysteriously, he and Hoja look so much alike as to be twins. This is an important underlying aspect of the novel - you could even say it's the point of the book - and perhaps this is what makes Pamuk so difficult, is that while it comes up frequently, it's almost in passing. In so many scenes, the ostensible focus is something that is almost palpably uninteresting, and meanwhile there are a few scattered sentences that imply that the real point is just under the surface. It makes the prose seem incredibly dense, as though you needed to read it at least twice, and slowly, to actually understand what's going on. And you can't help but wonder if there actually is something going on, or whether it adds up to anything coherent. I think one would need to achieve the perfect balance of pace in reading this book to get the full benefit; fast enough that you don't lose interest, but slow enough that you can actually absorb it.
So the jury is still out on Pamuk, as far as I'm concerned. I did ultimately find this book rewarding, but I'm still skeptical. I'm planning to read Snow soon, so we'll see how I feel after that.