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Persian Nights

3.32  ·  Rating Details  ·  330 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Chloe Fowler is the most unliberated woman she knows: disarmingly delicate and pretty, and not averse to putting either attribute to its best use, married, young, and satisfied with her normal American life as wife and mother. Yet Chloe is about to be liberated from everything she has ever known—in a place where her ordinary notions of reason and reality will run headlong ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published February 1st 1998 by Plume (first published March 1st 1996)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 884)
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Sep 04, 2008 John rated it liked it
Shelves: literature, fiction
This is another in a steady line up of novels that were recommended in appendix form at the end Francine Prose's book on reading and writing, and represents yet another author about whom I had previously heard nothing, but enjoyed. A nominee for Pulitzer Prize for fiction this work follows the travels of an american housewife (of a doctor) to pre-revolutionary Iran, who initially set off with her husband but wouln up alone. The barely alive embers of a cold marriage go out for the protagonist a ...more
Dec 08, 2011 Helaine rated it liked it
Chloe Fowler is a thirty-something wife and mother with one foot in the 1950's and the other in the pre-HIV, sexually free 1970's (book takes place about 1979) who finds herself unexpectedly in an Iran on the verge of revolution sans husband. I expected some superb writing since this book was nominated for a Pulitzer. But I could not identify with Chloe (especially her lament at the end "to be good") or any other character in the book. I also found awkward the frequent change of perspective--esp ...more
Jul 26, 2008 Les rated it it was amazing
The cover of this book screams "CHICK LIT", until you realize it was nominated for a Pulitzer in literature. Ms. Johnson is a master at plopping American characters in foreign countries, and showing the similarities and differences between two cultures. The ultimate lesson, I believe, is that nothing is what it seems on the news or on the surface, and you have to get to know people before you can make sweeping judgements. "You can't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes."
Feb 11, 2016 SP rated it it was ok
The first half of the book is good, though the pace is slow, it does give some nice exotic flavor and mystic and suspenseful atmosphere. The second half is very poor, really poor. Too many coincidences and too many incomprehensible actions of the protagonists.

A crucial criterion of a good fiction is that the plots and the actions of the characters should be reasonable. However many plots in this book are totally contrived, making the story ridiculous. Just give some examples, (spoiler below)

Jul 03, 2014 Dholsten rated it liked it
Based on the cover, I thought this would be a fun summer read. Well, no. Instead, the novel presents the chaos leading up to the overthrow of the Iranian government and its impact on both the countrymen and the foreigners that become part of the fabric via medical assistance, airline workers, CIA operatives, etc. There are so many details in this novel that the reader gets the impression that Diane Johnson has had personal experience with in terms of the intricate intrigue of hospital staffing, ...more
Mar 29, 2011 Anita rated it it was amazing
I know this book is more than a decade old but it is still relevant and really brilliant. Diane Johnson gets inside the mind of her heroine, Chloe Fowler, and creates a portrait of a woman that is lovely and poignant.
Jan 07, 2010 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Her best work I've read. It was fabulous. It has the whimsical Fitzgerald quality. The characters are all explored more by action than by thought. I truly loved this book.
Jul 03, 2014 Teresa rated it it was ok
You shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but this cover was deceptive and messed me up throughout the reading of the book.
The story is about a group of American doctors and their spouses who, during the time of the Shah of Iran, go to a smallish city to help medically. During the course of the book, the Shah's leadership position becomes questionable and the Americans have to decide how to deeal with it.
It is NOT a summer fluff book. It is messy and sometimes hard to followb, but has some insig
Oct 20, 2015 Andrea rated it really liked it
Diane Johnson has a great gift. To be able to write about manners and mores with such a sharp eye, keep it funny yet maintain gravitas, contemporary and timeless, can be masterful.

I first fell in love with Ms. Johnson's writing a decade ago with Le Divorce, when I fell in love with Isabelle and Roxy-- to live in Paris! Or Santa Barbara! To have money, style, breeding...well, maybe it's not all it's cracked up to be.

Persian Nights follows in a similar vein, with Chloe our would-be heroine, arrivi
Nov 24, 2009 Lauren rated it really liked it
This book got off to a slow start, but the crescendo and denoument are certainly worth the wait. This is one of Johnson's most serious novels, delving into the condition of American doctors abroad and the Persian people at the dawn of the revolution in Iran. Although the action is witnessed mostly from behind the confines of a compound of intellectual elites by Chloe Fowler, Protagonist of Questionable Morals, Johnson manages to engender sympathy for and interest in her and the others' stories, ...more
Sep 04, 2014 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this years ago when it first came out, but didn't really remember much other than the general idea--a group of American doctors working at a medical facility in Shiraz, Iran, in the months before the 1979 revolution. I liked the description of Shiraz, Persepolis, and the hospital compound where the story takes place. The plot, however, is melodramatic and implausible. Still, I enjoyed the book.
Sep 08, 2015 Jill rated it really liked it
This isn't my usual type of read, but I enjoyed it. None of the characters are very likeable, in the traditional sense, and the writing style is a little cool and distant.

But I'm always interested in stories of expats and "ugly Americans." Diane Johnson is also a very funny, observant writer. I loved "Le Divorce" (book and movie) so I knew I wanted to read this. I didn't tear through it, but I finished it, which feels like a huge accomplishment, considering how my reading has gone lately.
Jan 19, 2016 Megan rated it liked it
I had read really good reviews about this book, so I think I was more disappointed that it didn't live up to expectations. The story was interesting and Johnson writes about competing cultures very well, but I think I just expected more.
Kate Ferris
Sep 20, 2014 Kate Ferris rated it really liked it
A very good read, keeping in mind that it was written over 20 years ago so the political scene has changed in many ways.
Saïdeh Pakravan
Feb 21, 2013 Saïdeh Pakravan rated it liked it
Diane Johnson has achieved a remarkable feat of describing a world far removed from that of the main protagonist in an tone neither patronizing nor spectacular. ChLoe Fowler finds herself alone in pre-revolutionary Iran, at a point o which the hinges of history are irretrievably creaking. Through the author's taut, crisp story-telling and sensuous, evocative imagery, we are taken on an unforgettable journey.
May 07, 2008 Sara rated it it was ok
Shelves: for-sale
I feel kind of apathetic toward this book; it's interesting to read about pre-revolution Iran, but the characters are difficult to like -- and the only one I was able to warm to gets killed somewhat arbitrarily about 3/4s of the way in, to no real purpose. The writing is interesting, and I guess it says something that I actually finished it, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to anyone.
Jul 06, 2014 Sharon rated it liked it
Shelves: about-asia
This novel is set just before the fall of the Shahin Iran, although no specific dats are mentioned, so I spent most of the novel being not quite sure about the time frame. An interesting cast of characters come together is a housing compound for foreign doctors and run into various misunderstandings. A mysterty runs its way through the book and is not resolved until the very end.
Julia Cottrell
Jun 30, 2007 Julia Cottrell rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one
I really couldn't stand this book! I thought it was a misogynistic work by what only seems like a super ditzy author. It might be that it was written in 1986, but it just feels like the lead heroine is completely hard to respect and out of an out-dated era. She sort of floats around wondering which man to depend on next. Ick. OK, my rant is done!
Sep 24, 2010 Nicole rated it it was ok
So not a big fan; I never felt connected to the characters and I also felt the author did not delve deeply into the background of the fall of Iran's shah and the implications it had for the ex-pats living in Shiraz. It was as if the main plot could have taken place anywhere - London, Miami, Hong Kong, etc. It felt very superficial and forced.
Jul 26, 2008 Betsy rated it did not like it
I am not sure why I finished this book. I think I was hoping it would somehow get interesting, but it failed miserably. I had very little connection with the main character and did not find the extramarital affairs or justification of them very appealing. It was a weird book with little plot which dragged on forever!
Feb 20, 2016 Sam rated it did not like it
Don't judge a book by its cover- or at least not one by Diane Johnson. I had no idea what I was getting into when I started this book because although the blurb on the back says one thing, the contents of this book are a whole other mess. It's given me a push to find out more about Iranian history so I'll take that.
May 07, 2014 Mariaget rated it liked it
I enjoined it mainly because of the Iranian component
Mar 28, 2008 Lynn rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Chloe plans to travel with her doctor husband to pre-revolutionary Iran, but her husband was sidelined and she goes alone. Her lack of self knowledge, insight, common sense make her a weak main character and probably what ruined the novel for me.
Nov 06, 2008 Christy rated it did not like it
Ughh... mediocre smut. Never really picks up. Story of a pampered, idiot, upper middle class, bored housewife who somehow ends up affair-ing her way across Iran. Read about half, paged through the rest and then chucked it.
Jul 08, 2011 Tatiana rated it it was ok
enh. a kind of interesting story backdrop as it is set in Iran when the shah fell...but the story is marked culturally by when it was written (1970s woman perspective). the story is slow, and the ending is unsatisfactory.
Nov 11, 2009 K M rated it liked it
A fun, quick read, the setting of the novel is what really makes it interesting - late 1970s Iran, just prior to the Islamic Revolution. Kind of chick lit meets historical fiction.
Aug 19, 2008 Audrey rated it did not like it
I tried getting through this book more than once, but it just didn't hold my attention enough. I was hoping it would get better, but I just couldn't read far enough to find out.
Kwesi 章英狮
Jul 10, 2011 Kwesi 章英狮 rated it did not like it
Shelves: owned, diane-johnson, 2011
Book #185 for 2011
Book #103 for Off the Shelf!
Feb 10, 2009 jen8998 rated it it was ok
I had trouble finishing this book, stopping and starting many times. I had trouble relating to the main character and eventually came to dislike her.
Jun 05, 2012 Wendy rated it liked it
Hard to believe this was written by a native English speaker but it was interesting if you can get past the weird style.
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  • The Feud
  • The Manikin
  • Selected Poems
  • Doting
  • Vintage Baldwin
  • Searches and Seizures
  • Rabbis and Wives
  • The Collected Stories
  • Leaving the Land
  • Paradise
  • Collected Stories and Later Writings
  • The Wonders Of The Invisible World
  • The Stories (So Far)
  • Story of a Life
  • Sleepwalker in a Fog
  • Whites
  • A Life in Letters
  • Bear and His Daughter
Diane Johnson is an American born novelist and essayist whose satirical novels often contain American heroines living abroad in contemporary France.

Born in Moline, Illinois, Johnson's recent books include L'Affaire (2004), Le Mariage (2000), and Le Divorce (1997) for which she was a National Book Award finalist and the winner of the California Book Awards gold medal for fiction.

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