- I am not sure I have ever read a book set in Iran.
- There is a lot of history which is still very relevant considering current events
- Women are well-represented as writers and subjects of Iranian fiction
- The covers on many Iranian novels are sensational and pretty much irresistible
Not knowing quite where to start, I have put in an Amazon order for two of the novels from the fantastic selection available. The cover of The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia
Sofer immediately called out to me and on reading the synopsis I decided it would be an excellent introduction to one of the country’s most significant events – the Islamic Revolution. The novel begins a couple of years after the overthrow of the shah in 1979 and looks at the impact it had on one Iranian family. Personalizing the story like this is always a winner for me.
The revolution is a defining point in Iran’s history, and is constantly referred to in any analysis of present day Iranian society and politics. And as it also helps our reading of the novels if we have an understanding of the history behind them, here’s a quick breakdown of events.
The Iranian Revolution – At a Glance
- In the 1970’s Iran was led by a pro-Western shah – Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlav
- He faced opposition from the left and right – those who thought he wasn’t reforming fast enough as well as those who believed westernisation was wrong for Iran. There was also general criticism of his autocratic style, and corruption in his government
- Dissatisfaction in his rule grew during the 1970’s
- At the same time support grew for the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a Shi’ite religious leader living in exile in Paris
- In 1978, thousands of young people took to the streets both from the secular left and the religious right. Many people were killed by government forces. There were more protests….and an ongoing cycle of violence.
- There was growing religious fervor and in the evenings people in Tehran called out the revolutionary rallying cry Allāhu akbar (“God is great”) from their rooftops.
- On January 16, 1979, the shah left the country, with Khomeini taking over
- On April 1, Khomeini declared Iran an Islamic republic. He had the overwhelming support of the public. Islamic codes of dress were enforced and the informal religious militia, the Revolutionary Guard, worked with clerics to suppress political opposition and Western cultural influence.
- Many of the Western-educated elite fled the country.
Have a look at this History Channel clip with some great footage from the time.
The Saffron Kitchen by Yasmin Crowther
My second choice of novel (you never know, I might not like the first one and I like to have my bases covered!) is The Saffron Kitchen by Yasmin Crowther, and is set many years later. It is the story of Maryam who left Iran after the revolution, settling in England. Many years later, after a severe falling out with her adult daughter which had tragic consequences, she returns to her childhood Iranian village to try and make sense of the past.
This books seems a good follow-up to Septembers of Shiraz, giving us the later perspective. But I will let you know what I think once I have read them both.
Come join us…
Let us know in the comments below what you are planning to read, and that is also a mighty fine place to leave a link to your review once you have finished….
I can’t wait to see what else you all discover.
UPDATE: You can now read the reviews of The Saffron Kitchen and Septembers of Shiraz here.
Enjoyed this post? Have a look at our other World Party Reading Challenge selections.