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In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs: A Memoir of Iran

3.44  ·  Rating Details  ·  261 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
The history of Iran in the late twentieth century is a chronicle of religious fervor and violent change -- from the Islamic Revolution that ousted the Shah in favor of a rigid fundamentalist government to the bloody eight-year war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq. But what happened to the hostage-takers, the suicidal holy warriors, the martyrs, and the mullahs responsible for th ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 3rd 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published January 4th 2005)
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27th out of 108 books — 79 voters
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64th out of 278 books — 109 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 698)
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Feb 04, 2013 Jonfaith rated it really liked it
Shelves: samizdat
My friend Mark suggested this book for our group back in 2006. Mark had travelled through the country during the days of the Shah, smoking hash and driving a VW Bus on his way to Afghanistan. He related how in certain hamlets, firewood was a dollar a night and the hash was free. It was around 2006 that the rumbles about preemptive strikes agsinst Iran first rumbled from Seymour Hersh and others. The book is masterful in detailing the contradictions of a progessive theocracy, the schizoid tension ...more
Apr 02, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing
This book, set in the Islamic Republic of Iran, should be required reading for anyone hoping to understand the complexities of current events there. Leaping backward and forward in history, the author, de Bellaigue, examines 25 years of revolution, as overshadowed by centuries of political and religious conflict. The fall of the Shah, Khomeini's rise to power, and the shifting alliances after his death resolve into a new kind of monarchy that, in the opinion of de Bellaigue and those he intervie ...more
Dec 09, 2015 Hakan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
On yıl önce yayımlandığı için biraz güncelliğini yitirmiş olsa da ülke hakkında fikir veren, iyi yazılmış bir kitap.
Jun 06, 2015 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Iran, both as the ancient and modern country, fascinates me. It may be partly because of all the demonising I read from the Western press. But mostly it is because of my interest in the affairs of the Middle East - geo-politics, foreign policy and the seemingly endless wars.

The author of this book, Christopher de Bellaigue, is a British journalist who is married to an Iranian woman. He claims that he is a stranger to this strange land. Sometimes, he even sounds skeptical. But this is the very r
Aug 10, 2013 Alex rated it really liked it
This book is authored by a Westerner living inside Iran giving you an in depth view of the Iranian people. The author is married to an Iranian and lives in the north of Tehran. The book gives you an insiders view of 20th century Iran from just before the 1979 revolution into the 2000's. Interviews with many Iranians that participated in the Iran-Iraq war give you many insights into the culture and the Shiite brand of Islam. A lot of energy goes into mourning a man that died 1200 years ago. Irani ...more
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Nov 12, 2013 Babak Fakhamzadeh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoires, history, iran
There's not many contemporary books on Iran. So when I saw this book advertised on Amazon, when I was looking for some read-ups before my planned trip to Iran in January, I jumped at the opportunity of getting this one at a discount.
Because of the discount, I didn't expect too much but I was happily proved wrong. This is easily the best book I have read on contemporary Iran.

De Bellaigue, English but married to an Iranian, tries to understand the soul of the revolution and what it has turned in
Jul 06, 2012 Tiemu rated it liked it
Not just an author's narrative of several of the failures of the 1978 revolution in 21st century Iran, but also a 'Culture Shock' travelogue by a Westerner who calls Iran home. Like many Iranians themselves, he has a love-hate relationship with this home. This is more of an expat's observation of life in Iran through a general prism of the failed reality of the hysterical optimism of the revolution.

Many reviewers found the book's style irritating to follow, as the narrative seemingly arbitrarily
Tariq Mahmood
Jul 28, 2012 Tariq Mahmood rated it really liked it
Shelves: iran
This is a great book on Iran if you have been keeping pace with what has been happening there, politically since the Islamic revolution, otherwise certain sections might became a bit of a drag. The author has the singular advantage of being a British man married to an Iranian lady and living in Tehran, giving him pretty unprecedented coverage of the insides of a very proud but wounded country. Proud because of their culture and wounded because despite their tall claims they were routinely overlo ...more
Aug 11, 2008 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have had a fascination for Iran---I am not sure why. This is an outstanding memoir/history of life in Iran and an investigation into the culture of the Iranian people, from the viewpoint of an outsider with intimate understanding of the people. The author provides a wonderful glimpse into both daily life and customs, as well as insights into events that helped shape the people and country. A Brit, he married an Iranian woman and stayed. The totalitarian oppression experienced under the mullahs ...more
May 09, 2009 Charlotte rated it it was ok
This book jumped around too much... from one subject to another, from person to person. The author never articulates what he's trying to convey in the book — I had to read the NYT book review (which praised the book) to figure out how all the stories the writer is telling were connected. Some parts of the book read better than others. At its worst, the author's descriptions are ineloquent and confusing. His description, for instance, of the type of sport that goes on in Iranian houses of strengt ...more
Nov 17, 2007 GeekChick rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people interested in Middle Eastern history
Shelves: history
This book is a political history of Iran. It was pretty interesting, especially the parts about the Ayatollah Khomeni's rise to power (which is one of my earliest political memories).

The book is very interesting and generally easy enough to read, but I must say it is not a page-turner, not one that I couldn't put down. But it wasn't difficult or dry either. Not as poetic as Reza Aslan, and certainly a tad verbose at times. If you are interested in the subject matter, it is a good read.

I must c
Jul 07, 2011 Sophia rated it liked it
In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs is not an introductory book about modern Iran. Christopher de Bellaigue—British journalist, longtime resident of Tehran, husband to an Iranian woman—plunges into his narrative without much context or signposts. Although he focuses on interviews with veterans of the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war, sometimes he discusses traffic conditions, goings-on in politics, parts of novels, and his travels within Iran. Its organizing logic is non-linear, opaque, an ...more
Homer H Blass
An interesting and insightful anecdotal history of contemporary Iran from the background to the 79 revolution; the American hostage crisis; the Iran-Iraq war; and the current struggle between Ideologues and pragmatists. The author is an Englishman with a degree from Cambridge in Iranian studies and married to a Persian and living in Iran since the early 90's. He tells the history of those years by describing the experiences of a group of Iranians he knows and discusses the issues and controversi ...more
Jamie Elliott

This memoir reads like a compilation of thorough newspaper articles or short stories, I never quite knew where the book was going next. It contains snapshots of Iranian life, histories of people involved in the Revolution and people who oppose its growing hypocrisy, and the reflections of a foreigner trying to understand and be understood. I found it very enjoyable to read, an absorbing glimpse into the lives of people who are motivated in ways foreign to my experience and a testament to the dif
Sep 29, 2008 Ruth rated it liked it
This book is both a recent history of Iran and a collection of stories about the experiences of specific people that live there. It also is part travelogue. The author is a British guy who married an Iranian woman and moved there. I had a lot of trouble digesting the history because it was so complicated, but the other parts of the book added to my impressions of what this place is about and elucidated some of its interesting contradictions.
Apr 13, 2009 Valentina rated it really liked it
Tracking back former revolutionaries to discover their present lives, hopes and disillusionment, De Bellaigue offers an enlightening portrait of the Islamic Republic and its endless contradictions. Once again, a book that forces the reader to acknowledge how little is known about today's Iran outside of that country's border. Only flaw: sometimes the transition from one paragraph and section to the next is not very clear nor smooth...
Aug 02, 2008 J rated it it was ok
There are a good deal of things I enjoyed about this book. However, there are a few instances that have left me feeling like the author could have gone a little further with the story and then places where I get lost reading a bunch of words that almost make no sense.
I'm hoping the better parts of the book win out. I'm not planning to give up, but if the lesser qualities prevail I'm not so apt to recommend this to others.
David Chastain
Feb 23, 2008 David Chastain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Memoir of life in Iran - Mr. de Ballaigue has lived in Iran for over 20 and shares his experiences within the vailed country we know as part of the "axis of evil" -- Capturing life within the confines of Iranian culture from someone other than CNN, Fox News, NBC, ABC, BBC is refreshing.
Jun 24, 2007 lisa rated it it was amazing
I think this book will be timely forever and if someone can get ahold of Christopher's New Yorker op ed "Under the Olive Trees" piece, (possibly 12/06?), it will be well worth whatever effort you endure finding it.
solmaz sattarzadeh
Sep 06, 2007 solmaz sattarzadeh rated it it was amazing
at first i was really suspicious about his interpretation about iranian culture and politics but gradually found the book mostly reliable and well-written.he touched me so much about writing unspoken truth in Iran.
Dec 29, 2010 CJ rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I set this one aside months and months ago and couldn't bring myself to finish it. So I didn't really abandon it in disgust - more out of boredom. It didn't hold my attention enough to make me care about it.
Apr 23, 2010 Sophia rated it it was amazing
I have read many books on Iran, and this is probably my favorite. (Although I lobe Homman Majd). Provides an unflinching look at the Revolution and its aftermath - both good and bad.
Sep 21, 2007 Martha rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Contains some interesting descriptions of Iranian culture and society, but the history scattered throughout is disjointed and the writing is unpolished in parts.
An intriguing read about a country that most of us in the US barely knew about until the hostage crisis during 1979-1981.
Dillon Tatum
Nov 09, 2008 Dillon Tatum is currently reading it
Not too great so far. It is a memoir, and I think it is poorly written. I don't know, maybe it will change my mind.
Tom & Beverly
Sep 13, 2008 Tom & Beverly rated it it was ok
Bev read this but it was too depressing she said. Then she said I might enjoy it ? What does that mean?
Tom Baker
Aug 27, 2013 Tom Baker rated it really liked it
Before popping off about other cultures, learn something. I did just that about Iran and am thankful.
still need to read it
good overview of recent iranian history
starting with the revolution
Ellie Revert
Jan 13, 2010 Ellie Revert rated it it was ok
Great book, but I struggled with the back and forth--and which shah was that?
Jun 21, 2007 Reza rated it liked it
Had me reaching for my dictionary often but I recommend this book.
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Christopher de Bellaigue was born in London in 1971 and has worked as a journalist in the Middle East and South Asia since 1994. His first book, In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs: A Memoir of Iran, was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize. His latest book is Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Tragic Anglo-American Coup. He lives in Tehran with his wife and two ...more
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