A Beginners Guide To Acting English is a memoir of Shappi Khorsandi's childhood, incorporating her move to the UK and dalliance with a fatwa.
The front cover suggests comedy. Perhaps some farce, with quotes lauding Britains Best Young Female Comic.
Within a few pages, I realised that I shouldn't have judged the book by its cover.
To clarify, Shappi is Iranian, she has an older brother, a mother, and her father is a famous satirical poet and cartoonist (in Iran at least). We join the family in Iran; everything is viewed through Shappi's pre-school eyes. Once I'd got over the fact that there was no way that Shappi could have remembered all this detail, and that much of her material must have been passed down from family, I really got into the sights, sounds and smells of Tehran.
The Khorsandis move to London at the time that the Ayatollah takes over rulership from the Shah. The childlike innocence with which Shaparak views everything is beautiful. There is no partisan view, no political standpoint. The view is always "If the Ayatollah met my Baba (dad), he'd find him really funny too."
In London they are dismissed as "Pakis", "terrorists" and suffer other verbal abuse. But Shappi and her brother are still just kids, and play just like kids. Even while the police tell them to disappear because of death threats.
My favourite quote comes as Hadi Khorsandi checks under his car for bombs. "Do any of you know what a bomb looks like?" "No." comes the reply. "Neither do I." But such gallows humour is always followed by a sigh of relief when the car doesn't blow up.
Charming, enjoyable, delightful. These are all how this book should be described. Shappi's affection for her friends, family and her homeland is touching and inspiring.