Monday, July 21, 2008

Laura's Review - The Septembers of Shiraz

The Septembers of Shiraz
Dalia Sofer
340 pages

In The Septembers of Shiraz, Dalia Sofer paints a vivid emotional portrait of one familiy's struggle to cope when the father disappears and becomes a political prisoner. Set in Iran immediately after the Shah's regime, Isaac Amin is a Jewish jeweler who is arrested in his office. His wife, Farnaz, is not notified but quickly realizes what has happened; arrests such as Isaac's were quite common. The effect on her is devastating; she struggles to maintain "business and usual" in her household while fearing for her own life and that of her 9-year-old daughter, Shirin. Shirin acts out her fear, operating from limited information and a child's perspective. Meanwhile Isaac & Farnaz's son, Parviz, is attending a university in New York. He is lonely to begin with, and then overcome with helplessness at his inability to help his family.

If this story were only about Isaac, it would be a fairly typical novel of political imprisonment. But Sofer brings great depth not just to Isaac's character, but to his immediate and extended family. Her prose is wonderfully descriptive, such as this passage describing Isaac's dying father: The beads, she thinks, will outlive his hands. His wool robe, which he has owned as long as she has know himm, and before, will soon be folded and put away in a box, along with his hat, his good shoes, his pocket watch. What had allowed her to tolerate him, on that trip to Isfahan so long ago, was a single sentence. "Please make Isaac happy, Farnaz-jan, because we never did." With this sentence he had made her realize that despite all the things his character lacked, which were many, he possessed at least the capacity to admit who he was: a bad father.

During the Isaac's captivity, both he and Farnaz have ample opportunity to reflect on their lives together, which had become a bit stale. Isaac, reflecting on his successful business ventures, thinks to himself, All this, he had achieved, but the price had been a string of compromises, looped over one another like pearls, creating a life at once beautiful and frail. Slowly, all four family members come to terms with the importance of family, homeland, and ethnicity and the trade-offs necessary to preserve what they can.

An excellent book; highly recommended. ( )
My original review can be found here.

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