There’s been quite a flurry of activity at Packabook lately with a number of new signups to our emails and blogposts, so I thought I would take a moment to welcome you all to the Packabook community.
Our aim is to bring together people who really enjoy the sense of place that novels can provide, whether it is to learn more about the history of a place or just to feel like they have been transported to somewhere exotic. Here’s a bit of a rundown of some of the things we have going on:
From the moment you sign up to Packabook’s free newsletters, you begin a journey around the world in which we visit one country for a month and read one book that is set there. Each week (more or less!) you receive an email in which we take a closer look at the book and the place in which it is set, exploring some of the facts behind the novel and the things you could do if you visited that location. It’s our own special kind of book club and is exclusive to those who sign up by email.
This is a challenge running on the blog in which we focus on one country a month and encourage you to read anything that is set there – novels, memoirs, plays, travelogues – anything that takes your fancy. If you have your own blog, you can then write a review and provide us with a link so we can all be inspired by what you have read. This month we are in Iran, and in February we are off to England. Take a look at all the World Party Reading Challenge posts and see what we have been reading so far.
If you haven’t already done so, then we’d love you to follow Packabook on twitter and like us on Facebook. This is where we link to some excellent travel articles, let you know when we come across a great price on a favorite novel at Amazon, and find inspiring (and amusing!) stories in the world of books. Want to know how to turn your favorite book into a handbag? That’s the kind of thing you just might find on our facebook page! Most of this never makes it to the blog, so you will need to get yourself over to facebook or twitter if you’d like to join in….
Finally I’d like to thank you for your support. Packabook is a fairly new venture with an ambitious plan to see people all around the world learning more about the countries of this amazing planet through reading great novels. We have had great feedback from those who have already come on board, and we wish you the most excellent adventures ahead.
Thanks again and happy reading,
What? You are not whether you should sign up for our emails? Read some more about why you should give it a go…
- 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.
The literary blogging world is awash with challenges as we embark on the New Year, and I am afraid I have succumbed and decided to join a couple myself. These are not to be confused with Packabook’s own World Party Reading Challenge which I would of course encourage everyone to check out – but rather, these are hosted on other people’s blogs. Given that they fit in so well with what we do here at Packabook, I figured I would give it a go.
The first is the Italy in Books Challenge over at the Book After Book blog. The idea here is to read 12 books that are set in Italy throughout 2011, which shouldn’t be too difficult given the selection of books set in Italy we have here at Packabook for inspiration. I will give you some short reviews as I go along just in case you fancy a little Mediterranean meandering yourself.
And the second challenge is the War and Peace readalong over at A Room of One’s Own. Set in Russia, I figure War and Peace is pretty much mandatory reading for Packabookers at some stage of their reading career – and I have been putting it off for too long. Conveniently, the Tolstoy classic has 365 chapters, which makes it ideal for a year-long challenge – one chapter a day. If you are starting now you will have to double up the chapters for the first few days, but they are really not that long and you should have no trouble. I have decided that War and Peace is an ideal selection to read on my ipad. First of all, you can get it free from ibooks, secondly, given the size of this novel, it is not something I want to be carrying around in my bag all year!
If you are aware of any other challenges focusing on specific locations that might inspire your fellow Packabookers, then let us know in the comments. Or if you decide to join in on either of the two above then I’d love to hear about it …there’s safety in numbers!
I am actually most of the way through Museum of Innocence, and while I am enjoying aspects of it, it is kind of a tough read. It might be because I am reading it in fits and bursts, but the novel is a 560-page story of one man’s obsessive love for his cousin, and at times it is truly agonizing. Unfortunately I cannot give you a proper review of this book, as I am now traveling for the rest of November and I am afraid Pamuk is just too big to carry with me, so Museum of Innocence remains unfinished this month.
Enjoyed this post? Have a look at our other World Party Reading Challenge selections.