Reviewed by L.D.Y.
Hardcover, 377 pages, 2007
Reason for Reading: A fondness for both women in historical novels and books set in the Middle East.
Synopsis: In seventeenth century Persia, a young woman experiences a devastating loss that destroys her future prospects and finds her transplanted from a small village to a big city, learning to create stunning rugs and also attempting to weave a life of her own out of nothing.
Why you should read this book: The young heroine of the story is an extremely likable, headstrong young woman who lives in a time where curiosity, ambition, and willfulness are traits that are looked down upon (and sometimes even punished) in women, all of which Amirrezvani captures beautifully. Also on the note of beauty are the rugs the young woman is determined to create, which are wonderfully evoked both in their creation and in their completion. Throw in the possibilities of wanting to find love, a most unusual marriage contract, challenging friendships, and family obligations that go against personal will, and you’ve got an engrossing, well-written story. Beyond the main story are lovely (if not always cheerful) fables that are sprinkled throughout the book, adding a sense of mysticism.
Why you should avoid this book: In places, the story feels too modern to be set in the 1600s, especially considering how much the main character runs unchecked, especially by supposedly less indulgent family members and strangers.
First there wasn’t and then there was. Before God, no one was.
My mother looked at me with pity. ‘Oh daughter, whom I love above all others,’ she said, ‘a family like this one keeps to itself.’
‘But we are their family.’
‘Yes, and if we had arrived with your father, bearing gifts and good fortune, it would have been different,’ she said. ‘But as the poor relatives of your grandfather’s second wife, we are not good news.’
A servant brought in trays of food and laid them in front of the guest. ‘Really, there is no need to go to so much trouble,’ said the Dutchman. ‘I simply wanted to inquire if we might do business together.’
Gostaham twitched as he tried to contain his anger at this display of rudeness. He looked down at the carpet as he said, ‘Please, my friend, eat. We won’t allow you to leave with an empty belly.’
The Dutchman ate a few morsels grudgingly, with an unconcealed air of obligation. I was astonished by his barbarous manners. He seemed like an animal, incapable of normal human pleasantries.
Also recommended: The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier; The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad; A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.
Also by this author: The Blood of Flowers is Amirrezvani’s first novel.
Author’s website: bloodofflowers.com
Fun tidbit: Amirrezvani didn’t tell anyone she was working on this book until she had finished her first draft – which took five years.
Would I read more by this author? I’ll look forward to Amirrezvani’s second novel.
© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2008