Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

"The Septembers of Shiraz" by Dalia Sofer (Picador, 2007)

In post-revolution Iran, Isaac, a jeweller (nominally a Jew) is imprisoned and tortured for months. Meanwhile his wife Farnaz doesn't/can't do much. Their 9 year-old daughter Shirin is wise well beyond her years, putting herself at risk with friends whose parents are part of the revolution. His son Parvez is a struggling student in New York, thwarted in a relationship because the woman is a strict Jew (her parents support missionary Jews) - "A religious girl and her entire clan! because they come as a package, these religious types" (p.227), he's told by someone. He talks to an immigrant ex-doctor whose qualifications counted for nothing in the States - "In this country, I feel like a ghost" (p.227) and whose father was exiled by Stalin.

Isaac is released in time to witness his father's death. The family escape to Turkey.

It's almost as if it's designed for book-groups wanting to discuss Fundamentalism and Equality. I expected one of Isaac's cell-mates to be an informer, but I was wrong. I expected the down-side of Western (sexual) freedom (especially from a female PoV) to be portrayed. I was wrong - his father's syphilis was contracted (I think) in India.

Other reviews

  • Claire Messud (a remarkable debut)
  • Kirkus Review (Sofer’s characters are immensely sympathetic and illustrate plainly and without pretense the global issues of class, religion and politics following the Iranian Revolution. As intelligent as it is gripping)
  • Steve Cannon (Ms. Sofer, a surprisingly young writer for the voice she wields and the subject she tackles, fled Iran herself at the age of ten, and presumably draws upon the history of her own family’s plight in The Septembers of Shiraz. As readers, much of what we learn in this book comes to us through the mind and reasoning of a nine-year-old girl. ... Refreshingly, this book does not delve too deeply into politics,)
  • Caroline Miller (Occasionally it risks being artless, but it is never heartless, and is limpidly readable historical fiction)
  • Paula Lubin
  • iranwrites (If this novel is about love and identity, it was totally lost to me ... Not only does [Farnaz's] loneliness remains a mystery to me, but her aloofness and coldness do not fit my image of Iranian mothers either ... There is a long way to go for the September of Shiraz to become a classic, for a novel in which two of its four characters do not find a chance to appear fully or even to develop at all and whose subplots have no connection to the main plot except through the blood relation.)
  • Marie Claire
  • Good reads

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