Monday, July 28, 2008

Book Review: The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer

In the past year and a half I’ve read three books that have to do with the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian revolution: Mark Bowden’s Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis: The First Battle in America's War with Militant Islam by about the Tehran Embassy takeover, Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books and now The Septembers of Shiraz, the lone fictional account.

Despite being a novel, Septembers was probably the least passionate and most matter of fact of all three. Based loosely on her own family’s experience during this tumultuous time and their eventual flight from the country, the book is Sofer’s attempt to come to terms with her father’s stay in prison and her exile from the country she remembers from girlhood. Although many horrors occur – the father is tortured brutally by his zealot captors, opportunists loot the family’s business, a relative is burned with acid thrown by a mob – the writing does not sensationalize and the characters remain abnormally detached. My favorite parts were those chapters that followed daughter Shirin, whose secret defiance of the new regime lends the most suspense and passion to the narrative.

I also very much liked the lyrical writing. A sample passage: "The human body is like that. It needs a constant flow of nourishment, air, and love, to survive. Unlike currency, these things cannot be accumulated. At any given moment, either you have them, or you don't."

I found this easy to get into, easy to read but hard to put down. Glad I had the opportunity to read it as part of Everyday I Write the Book Blog's Online Book Club: "The Septembers of Shiraz" by Dalia Sofer. Thanks Gayle!


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I have this one not only on my wishlist, but also on my list for book club. Glad you loved it; that makes my case to the gang stronger.

Kelly said...

Sounds like an interesting novel. I really enjoy your reviews and blog!

Anonymous said...

Lenore - I put off reading any other reviews until I had mine complete, I needed a bit of time for the book to "settle" in me, there was so much to think about!

In reading yours tonight, I see we used almost the exact same phrase (not a critical phrase, simply factual), about it being based loosely on Sopher's experience ... independent thinkers, I'm not poaching your words!

I thought *Reading Lolita in Tehran* was a fantastic book; I read it four years ago this summer. Thanks for the titles of the other books you recommend on the subject, I'll look them up!