Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani

The author of The Blood of Flowers was given an Iranian rug by her father when she was fourteen, and she began imagining what life might have been like for those who made it. The result is a fascinating novel about early 17th century Persia. The book took nine years to write. During that time, the author says in her notes, "I felt like Ali Baba in The Arabian Nights, who utters the magic words 'Open, sesame!' to reveal a cave illuminated by gold and precious gems."

The heroine of the novel is deliberately unnamed to "honor the anonymous artisans of Iran." She is a village girl of fourteen when the story opens, a nimble and creative rug-maker. Her indulgent parents adore her, but when her father suddenly dies, she and her mother are forced to travel to a great city where their only male relative lives, for in this male-dominated society women are possessions, owned and hidden away by men, and women without the protection of men are quickly reduced to begging or prostitution.

The girl's uncle is a wealthy master rug maker who designs rugs for the Shah's court. Soon after his brother's widow and her daughter are taken into his household, he discovers the girl's talent in rug making and design and allows her to learn his secrets.

The world of ancient Persia is beautifully described in this book. I savored the descriptions of the dazzling minarets, the markets where rugs and spices were sold, the lovely clothing worn by women in their secret courtyards.

Because she has no money for a dowry, the girl is forced by her family into a marriage contract still used in modern Iran today, a renewable three-month contract for a fee. Her hopes for a permanent marriage must be given up for money to support her and her mother.

The story of her misfortunes and fortunes is accompanied by lovely, magical tales of old Persia, and is a fascinating and richly detailed novel about an exotic and fascinating world.

B&N link

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