All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Blood of Flowers – Anita Amirrezvani

on August 15, 2010

I expected this book to be a simple coming of age story about a young girl in 17th century Iran who has a few trials along the way but ultimately triumphs in love and life by the end. When the novel opens she is fourteen and happy. Her parents dote on her and love her and they have enough to provide her with a respectable dowry for a husband, even if they aren’t exactly well off. A comet sighting changes everything, with a prophet proclaiming that ill fortune will befall in lots of ways, particularly with marriages arranged, or to be arranged that year.

That starts a downward spiral for the family. The father falls ill working the fields and dies not long after. Without him to work their fields, they have no yield to barter for food and other necessities and they soon fall upon hard times. The young girl is skilled at knotting carpets and she makes a beautiful one to sell. Her mother asks the well-to-do purchaser to seek out her brother in law, her late husbands half brother who she hasn’t seen in over 20 years, to see if they will take pity on them now that they cannot survive alone. The man who buys the carpet makes good on his word and soon they are invited to the girl’s uncles house in Isfahan.

Although the uncle, Gostaham offers to take them both in, they are little more than servants, working the kitchen and taking the abuse of Gostaham’s almost bi-polar wife who swings from haughty tolerance to sneering disapproval. Despite the fact that Gostaham and his wife are very comfortably well off (Gostaham is a very talented carpet maker who works for the Shah) his wife is always worried about money and the drain that the narrator and her mother will bring on her household. Gostaham, for his part, seems a mostly benevolent and kind man, he sees our narrator’s interest and talent for knotting carpets and begins to mentor her, as he would a son.

As they can no longer provide a dowry for the narrator, her chance of making a good marriage is almost none. There is one man though, who amused by her spirit, offers her a marriage contract but it is a sigheh. A 3 month contract, renewable if he chooses, or she will be cast aside. As she would no longer be a virgin if that happened, her worth would be even lower. Her mother and her aunt and uncle decide that she must accept the contract and that the money it will bring (paid again every time the contract is renewed) will help pay their way in the household (as she will continue to live there, visiting her husband only when he required it) and also, after that, to help her pay for the wool to make herself a new carpet that she can then sell, acquiring more independence.

Of course that’s not the end, as our narrator is an impulsive, willful girl who often makes rash mistakes and incurs much wrath. Eventually cast out by her uncle and aunt for a decision which they do not approve of, her and her mother are stricken with a poverty she’s never known before and she must fight hard to drag them out of it.

The narrator is equal parts likable and frustrating as she matures from a rash, childish adolescent to a woman who takes responsibility and builds her life the way she wants it, not the way that other people want her to live it. Sometimes though, you just have to grit your teeth at the decisions she makes and the disaster you see coming from it but there’s nothing you can do but keep reading as she stumbles into one disaster after another. Her mother was a character I enjoyed at first, a kind and devoted woman, her gift for telling wonderful stories was well portrayed. However after they are cast out by Gostaham and his wife, she turns with a savagery that surprised me. Some of the things she said, and the way she acted, was truly cruel, when it has proved that the decisions she had made for her daughter had not at all panned out well for her.

The only good thing in the narrator’s life for most of the novel is her love for knotting carpets and the thirst she has to better herself at the design and construction of them. She has big dreams, of hiring women to work for her and selling her carpets. Her uncle is pleased at her interest and generous in his teachings and assistance. He truly wishes to help her better her craft and makes many comments during the novel how he wishes she was a boy so she could be apprenticed, and also that he wishes she was his son. He doesn’t let her being of the ‘fairer sex’ prevent him from including her in his work, even though she knows she can never be taken on professionally in his shop. He was an interesting character, enjoyable unless his wife was also in appearance. He was besotted by her and she sucked the life out of him (and indeed, everyone).

An enjoyable novel but I wished for a more indepth knowledge of 1620’s Persia. Lots of things are merely glossed over in favour of yet more rash decisions from our narrator and lots of talk about carpet. I would’ve appreciated much more vivid descriptions of the city they move to, the house they live in and the lifestyle. It’s all quite vague and really, apart from all the talk of the carpets and the garments they wear to cover themselves in public, could be anywhere.

An intriguing and easy read

7/10

Book #51 of my 75 Book Challenge

This book counts towards my 2010 Global Challenge

The Medium Challenge
Read two novels from each of these continents in the course of 2010:
Africa
Asia: #1: The Blood of Flowers, by Anita Amirrezvani. Set in Persia/Iran
Australasia: #1: Vodka Doesn’t Freeze, by Leah Giarratano. Set in Sydney, Australia.
Europe: #1: Cold Granite, by Stuart MacBride. Set in Aberdeen, Scotland.
North America (incl Central America)
South America
Try to find novels from twelve different countries or states.


2 responses to “The Blood of Flowers – Anita Amirrezvani

  1. Dominique says:

    Hi! 🙂 This is the first review I’ve read of The Blood of Flowers, I picked it up randomly at a second hand book store a few months back but have yet to actually read it. Great review, you’ve made me want to pick it up soon. 🙂

  2. Thank you 🙂 I hope you enjoy it!

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