The book is about an extended family of three cousins, who live in the house attached to the mosque in a town in Iran. The central character is Aqa Jaan, a wise and respected man, who runs the household and the town bazaar. when the story begins, it is 1950 and Iran is under the rule of the Shah, and the imam of the mosque is the ineffectual Alsaberi. But things will change dramatically. There is unrest at America's influence over the Shah, and the increasing Americanisation of Iran through radio, television and cinema, which conflict with the traditional Muslim way of life.
My edition has a chart showing the main characters in the front and a glossary of Arabic words in the back - two things that make me groan - I like to read uninterupted without having to flick back and forth for explanations and reminders. But I needn't have worried, as the characters were, on the whole, well-formed and distinctive so I didn't really need the extra help.
The book covers an important and fascinating part of recent history, a story which should be told in the West, where perhaps not enough is known about it. The first part of the book which introduces Persian customs and the relationships across the family was an absolute delight - I particularly liked the part about the Grandmothers who want to go to Mecca. However, when the story reached the time of the revolution and the fictional characters came up against real life events and people, I found that rather than being the exciting climax I was expecting, the book lost its way somewhat. Too much bland historical information was given, breaking from the flow of the narrative about the characters. It would have been better if this could have been integrated better with the story, rather than reported blankly. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the book - it is just that that flaw made it just a good read rather than a great one.