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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 4 April 2017
I would never have chosen this book, due to the name and the cover, but it was recommended by a friend. I loved it! It was really interesting and gave a fascinating insight into family life in Iran. Great characters and easy to read - a very enjoyable book.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 January 2014

Told in the first person, this is the life story of Massoume Sadeghi. In the Shah's day, her family moved from traditional Qum to the more modern Teheran in 1961, when she was a bright teenager. Her mother and her three brothers think that educating girls is a waste of time; but her father allowed her to go to school. We get a picture of how brothers try to control their sisters - not only her older brothers (one pious, one laddish and vicious), but even a brother who is six years younger than she is.

At sixteen, Massoume falls in love at sight with Saiid, a young pharmacist whose shop she passes on her way to school each day; and the same is true of him. They change colour when they see each other, but it is a long time before they even speak. When they do (and write, too), it all has to be secret. But the relationship, undeveloped though it is, is discovered. The brothers feel she has dishonoured the family and are unbelievably brutal; even the father will not defend her; she is imprisoned in the house until they find a man who is willing to marry her. At least a family friend finds Hamid, a decent and educated man for her, but she has not seen him before the wedding ceremony and resists until the last moment.

He, too, had been pressured into marriage by his family, and turns out to be a believer in the equality of men and women, and he encourages her to continue her education. But his main allegiance is to a communist cell of friends, with whom he spends most of his time, often staying away from home for days on end. In the early years of his marriage, his wife and later his two sons (Siamak and Massoud, excellent portraits of their contrasting characters as children and later as adolescents and young adults) come far behind. The cell has to disperse; the Savak, the Shah's secret police, pick up more and more of them. Hamid is imprisoned in 1973. Massoume, who is now a very strong character, has to cope on her own for the next four years.

In 1977 the Shah's control began to weaken in the face of unrest across a wide spectrum, from the Communists through the Liberals to the religious, who all fought the Shah's dictatorship. The Shah released a number of political prisoners, including Hamid. Massoume's fanatically Islamic brother Mahmoud was involved in the religious opposition to the regime. Once the Shah had fled, the victors fell out with each other. After Khomeini took power in 1979, Hamid was once again away from home for long periods as he resumed his political activities with all his former zeal and an ideological intolerance which matched that of the Islamists. Massoume was in despair at the prospect of Hamid once again sacrificing his family life for his dangerous politics. The nightmare of the last persecution repeats itself and worse: Hamid is arrested and executed, around 1980.

More disasters rain down on the distraught Massoume: later, in 1983, her now 17 year old Siamak is imprisoned for ten months because he had associated for a time with a left-wing religious group that opposed the Ayatollahs. Mahmoud had seen him distributing leaflets and had denounced his own nephew to the authorities. After Siamak was released, rather than being called up to fight in the Iran-Iraq War, he escapes abroad. His brother Massoud does join the Army in 1986, is declared missing, but was in fact a prisoner of war, returning home after the war ended in 1988.

After that, the turmoil in Massoume's life seems at last over. The political atmosphere in Iran had become a good deal more relaxed. Round the turn of the century Massoume sees her beloved children - she had a daughter as well as the two sons - married. She will be lonely, but she is happy for them. The penultimate chapter shows how the business of engagements and getting married seemed to have changed during Massoume's life-time - at least for the younger generation. But this change is skin-deep.

At the age of 53, Massoume meets Saiid again. They have always been each other's deepest loves, and now Saiid asks her to marry him. But all her three children are outraged, feel that they would be dishonoured by the marriage of such an old woman. That is how they repay the mother who had always lived for her children. Tragically, she makes this sacrifice for them, too. It is an unbearable end to a story of so much suffering.

The book was initially banned by the Iranian authorities, but when, remarkably, the ban was lifted in 2003, it became a best seller in Iran.

There is a four-page-long list of the many characters at the beginning of the book and a three-page-long glossary at the end. This does not make the Kindle edition the easiest to read.
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on 30 April 2015
This book is just ok in my opinion which was a disappointment having read the previous rave reviews. The style of writing is fairly basic and repetitive - maybe some of the nuance was lost in translation - and sometimes hysterical. An interesting premise but let down by a lack of depth regarding description of how the changes in social and political situation directly affected the characters' lives. Also I felt the main character's personality was inconsistent; one minute she's a radical, one minute a religous zealot. All in all, an interesting concept let down by distinctly average prose.
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on 4 June 2013
This book is extraordinary and despite it being fairly weighty I read it in less than 3 days. Telling the story of one apparently ordinary woman's life in Iran, it provides a rare inside look into this closed society as well as tracing this turbulent time in the country's history.
The narrative is told in the first person and from her forced marriage in her teens, through childrearing, revolution and middle age, we follow Massoumeh as we might an intimate friend - fearing with her for her family and feeling her grief, anger,and happiness. The atmosphere of fear created by the Iranian secret police and later the Revolutionary Guard for example made my heart beat faster and the shock of some of the worst moments of Massoumeh's life are quite violently affecting.
Although initially banned in Iran it has since become a bestseller there and it deserves to be one too here. The story is told beautifully and movingly with an emphasis on the main character facing the challenges that her life throws at he in an effort to support and protect her family. With this book I believe that the author has demonstrated what true heroism is. There is also a wonderful array of acutely drawn characters and a vividly realised world for the reader to indulge in.
The role that ideology plays in the novel is incredibly interesting, with Massoumeh's husband and each of her sons relating to their nation and family in different way. Although she acknowledges that her life or`Book of Fate' has apparently been dictated by men, it is refreshing to see the world through the eyes of such an underrepresented group in Western literary culture. Ultimately, we witness Massoumeh undergoing her own personal revolution as she struggles to release her spirit from the bonds of family and tradition; the conclusion to which is sensitive to the development of her character and to the ethos of the novel.
I strongly urge anybody interested in Iran or in women's experiences in the Middle East to read this.
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on 18 May 2013
Once in a while someone writes a book which grips your heart from the start and doesn't let you go till the very end. This is what the Book of Fate does.
It is a remarkable story of a country, of a nation and of one ordinary woman who just wants to have a happy family and live her life with dignity. The journey of the heroine follows the changes of regimes, of public opinions and of how under different governments things which were taken for granted can change overnight. It reminded me little bit how Russia changed from the Soviet Union to an independent country.
One thing which emerges through the book is that real faith has nothing to do with oppressive regimes and radicalism. Traditions can put your down and take your rights away, but pure, real faith is beautiful as is the heroine of this book. Masterful book and I can't wait for more translations by the same author!
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on 28 November 2013
This is a tremendous book that paints a picture of five decades of life in Iran in beautifully translated prose. It is a must-read for any book club for the sheer variety of topics and issues it covers: women's rights, religious tolerance, personal sacrifice, parenthood... For me, it brought to life the conflicting spirits and struggles of events like the Arab Spring, as well as similar troubles in Iran and Turkey, in a far more compelling way than any news article of YouTube video ever did. And it is a reminder that despite what cards are dealt to you in life, life goes on.
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on 19 October 2013
The Book of Fate is an extraordinary book that stays with you·
A compelling, deeply emotional story that delves into the complex web of religious intolerance, political extremism and misogyny. Read it,you won't forget it.
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on 29 May 2013
Wonderful read couldn't put it down. A highly interesting view of life in Iran. A young girl growing up in a strict Muslim society.
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on 26 September 2014
This very moving account of life as a young woman in Iran enables one to realise the good fortune one has to be female in a world where one is not at the mercy of one's father, brothers or husband, or even, come to that, one's mother. Beautifully written, one is able to empathise wholeheartedly with the protagonist.
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on 19 December 2015
My friend loved it
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