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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Rarely is a first novel as well rounded and flawless as this one. The characters are believable, the plot flows well, the descriptions are excellent, and it's just the right length. It's a seamless, complete story- there's no sense of different storylines being cobbled together.

Set in Iran, 'The Septembers of Shiraz' is the story of one family whose lives are turned upside down after the Shah is overthrown. It conjures up Iran very vividly and gives real meaning to the difficulty of the decision of whether to stay or leave faced by the characters.

I liked the emphasis on the relationships of the family as a whole, which gave it more originality than a straightforward romance or story of marital problems would have had.

There's very little to criticise, as it is an enjoyable read from start to finish, flows well and is written nicely. I suppose it lacked a certain 'wow' factor that would have lead me to give a five star rating - it's a highly competent, rather than brilliant, novel.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 22 June 2008
This is a hauntingly honest portrayal of the devastation wrought to families by the Islamic Revolution in Iran. It seems to be semi-autobiographical, as the author's own family fled Iran to the USA and clearly much of her own experience is reflected here. The story is not a surprising one, nor are there many twists and turns, but the characters are finely drawn and the minutaie of everyday life in Iran is beautifully portrayed. I don't think this is a great book, but it's one I appreciated reading.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 12 April 2008
Dalia Sofer's debut novel, the Orange Prize 2008 longlisted The Septembers of Shiraz, is set in Iran, the country of Sofer's birth, two years after the revolution in which the shah was toppled.

The story centres around the Amin family. Isaac Amin, who grew up with little, has worked hard at his gemstone business in order to bring him, his wife Farnaz, and their two children eighteen year-old Parviz and nine year-old Shireen a comfortable quality of life. Parviz has been sent to study architecture in New York, and, at this stage of Isaac's life, the world should be rosy.

However, Isaac is Jewish by birth, even though he has never been religious. This coupled with his wealth draws the attention and ire of the new revolutionary government. Isaac finds himself in trouble - and his family struggles to cope.

Sofer's novel is a disturbing and absorbing tale of the effects of revolution. The brutal horrors of incarceration and interrogation are vividly evoked, as is the irony of the imprisonment of those who campaigned against the Shah's regime in favour of democracy, only to find that democracy was not on the agenda.
The Amins' life slowly falls apart as relatives and friends either flee, are imprisoned, or are executed. Sofer captures this disintegration of society well, mingling the traumas of major life events seamlessly with the scents, sights and sounds of a country caught between two identities. The colourful bazaars, the vendors roasting corn on the cob on street corners, and the pattern of life for the middle class with servants living in their basements are all remnants of the past, while the rise of the Revolutionary Guards, adherence to strict Muslim laws and condemnation of westernised life look uneasily to the future.

This is powerful first novel about a country in turmoil.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2009
I though this book is extremely well written - there is detail and pace; put simply, I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened! Each of the four family members tells how their cosy life in the Shah's Iran is turned upside-down following the Islamic Revolution, and each perspective appears genuine and complete.

My only reservation concerns the politics - which is fairly central to the story. On one hand there are echoes of the holocaust - a brutal, corrupt, faceless regime torturing a Jewish man and his family; while on the other hand the story also reveals that torture was not invented by the revolutionaries, only a continuation of business under new owners; that Isaac Amin fell under `suspicion' for his past relations to the Shah, and that the jails and death lists were full of communists and intellectuals and not specifically Jews. And while we can feel nothing but sympathy for Isaac and his family it is also clear they are the ones with the wealth and connections to escape abroad.

Meant no doubt for an American market, there is no mistaking who the good guys are and who the bad. I would still applaud the author for giving the broader picture in all its complexity. For e.g. explaining how Isaac had cleverly used the patronage of the Shah's family to further his business - his intentions may have been purely financial but he can be judged as innocent, naive and complicit all at the same time. Also in the depiction of the family there is no idealism - they stick together in bad times but in their day to day life seem to relate little to each other and could be branded dysfunctional.

In the end I cannot resolve this ambiguity - nothing justifies the treatment of Isaac, yet the same man previously cared nothing for the freedoms and tolerances granted to others.

Perhaps it is a mark of a good book - it makes us think. And can we expect a simple answer from such complex and sensitive issues?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 27 October 2009
Having recently read and been blown away by 'A Thousand Splendid Suns', I was itching for another brilliant book to transport me away from hectic London life. After trying and failing with a number of books, I stumbled across 'The Septembers of Shiraz' in a charity shop. Being half Persian myself, I was compelled to read it, and to see if the author had really captured the real unjust treatment of non-fanatical Muslims in Iran - a problem that started in the late 1970s but also still happening now to Jews and Baha'is in Iran.
All I can say is that this book really did the Persians who have been poorly treated, in the past and the present, justice. I was gripped from beginning to end. Read this book if you loved 'A Thousand Splendid Suns'.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This was a well written, well balanced book.
The author covers both sides of the story - the repressed and the repressors both give opinions and views. A wonderful first novel, I hope there will be many more to follow.

The book is set in Tehran in 1981, shortly after the downfall of the Shah. Isaac Amin is singled out because of his wealth, his Jewish faith (albeit lapsed) and his jouneys to Israel on business. He is arrested by the revolutionary guards and accused of being a spy.
From the viewpoint of Isaac, his wife Farnaz, 9 year old daughter Shirin and 18 year old son Parviz, studying in the States, we follow Isaac's internment and the resulting fallout.
Farnaz is lost without her husband, trying to hold things together for their daughter. Shirin does her bit by stealing some files from a friend's house in the hope that she is saving these people from a fate similar to her father's. Parviz, meanwhile, is struggling to find an identity in a foreign city, without the regular financial suport of his family.
Flashbacks provide the background to their lives and give context to the events that take place.

The author expertly balances the narrative with discussion on why some people are rich and others poor; some are servants, others are served. This, along with religous fervour, is the central drive of the revolution.
Based on the experiences of herself and her family, this semi-autobiographical novel is well worth your time and I'm pleased that it's election into the Orange Long List has alerted to me to its existence.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 March 2009
What I really liked about this book is that the author was not afraid to portray the shortcomings in all the characters. I fell in love with all of them and I enjoyed the way each one described his/her own story in connection with the rest of the family. This is a page-turner. I recommend it to anyone who wants to know about the Iranian struggle.
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on 18 August 2012
A complex story well-told

Set during the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution, it tells the story of Isaac Amin, a rare gem dealer, his servants, his family and their friends. With the country close to collapse and in the hands of revolutionary guards who have been given the power to accuse and punish whomsoever they choose, Sofer shows us how easily we can lose our humanity and how convincingly we can lie to ourselves to justify our acts, so that when the oppressed become the oppressors we see they are no different.

When Isaac realises that Iran may become dangerous for such as he, a Jew and a non-believer in Islam, he sends his son to New York, staying behind with his wife and young daughter, in the vain hope that they will be allowed to continue their lives unmolested.

Isaac's courage and compassion in the face of his captors' brutality is a story often told but Dalia Sofer's gift is that she gives an important insight into the Iranian people. The change from the monarchy of the Shah to the bleak and harsh reality of Islamic Shia law demonstrates once again that history repeats itself and, ultimately, nothing is learned.

This book is as much about belief as it is about relationships. Despite cultural differences Sofer reminds us that we all share the same needs and desires, the only distinction is the way in which we try to attain them.

Some lovely prose, a complex story well-told. I look forward to Miss Sofer's next book.
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VINE VOICEon 28 September 2008
This was a well written, well balanced book.
The author covers both sides of the story - the repressed and the repressors both give opinions and views. A wonderful first novel, I hope there will be many more to follow.

The book is set in Tehran in 1981, shortly after the downfall of the Shah. Isaac Amin is singled out because of his wealth, his Jewish faith (albeit lapsed) and his jouneys to Israel on business. He is arrested by the revolutionary guards and accused of being a spy.
From the viewpoint of Isaac, his wife Farnaz, 9 year old daughter Shirin and 18 year old son Parviz, studying in the States, we follow Isaac's internment and the resulting fallout.
Farnaz is lost without her husband, trying to hold things together for their daughter. Shirin does her bit by stealing some files from a friend's house in the hope that she is saving these people from a fate similar to her father's. Parviz, meanwhile, is struggling to find an identity in a foreign city, without the regular financial suport of his family.
Flashbacks provide the background to their lives and give context to the events that take place.

The author expertly balances the narrative with discussion on why some people are rich and others poor; some are servants, others are served. This, along with religous fervour, is the central drive of the revolution.
Based on the experiences of herself and her family, this semi-autobiographical novel is well worth your time and I'm pleased that it's election into the Orange Long List has alerted to me to its existence.
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on 30 April 2012
A beautifully written account of the times following the Iranian revolution and the removal of the Shah. Surprisingly perhaps, the family at the centre of the drama, is a jewish one - used to the freedoms and wealth of their life before Islamic fundamentalism. There is little 'high drama' in this, despite the fact that the subject matter includes imprisonment, torture and random executions. Instead, we see the details of family life when someone 'disappears'. To counter this, we also follow the son of the family who is living overseas in the USA. Like his imprisoned father, he watches feet walking by outside from his basement perspective. But whereas his father keeps his eyes on bloodied boots, his son looks out for the feet of the girl he loves. Both men are surrounded by strangers and both men are alone. It's an interesting parallel, although the son's story never really takes off and isn't quite able to hold its own against the Iranian narrative. My only real flaw in this excellent debut is that I felt the ending to be rather rushed. We spent a long time getting to a certain point, and then it was all over quite quickly. Other than that, an enthralling novel and a peep into an era in Iran's history that it's hard to even imagine now, having become so used to Iran's post-revolution image.
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