Incredible book. The story is not a new one; it's probably the oldest in the world. A rich, powerful man and his best friend have a complicated, inten...moreIncredible book. The story is not a new one; it's probably the oldest in the world. A rich, powerful man and his best friend have a complicated, intense relationship. Then the rich man marries and the friendship changes with life-changing consequences. It was beautifully written and so indescribably engaging. I did not want it to end.(less)
I think it’s safe to say that any Queen has an extraordinary life, but being a Queen in the Middle East during the most conflicted times of the 20th c...moreI think it’s safe to say that any Queen has an extraordinary life, but being a Queen in the Middle East during the most conflicted times of the 20th century has a unique place in history. Queen Noor’s autobiography is a love story, not only the love of her husband and family but also her love of Jordan. The book chronicles her life from growing up in California to the death of her husband. Much of the book discusses relatively “normal” issues: a blended family with many stepchildren, having children, dealing with a spouse’s illness, etc.
However, those issues, which make the Queen seem very down-to-earth, are offset by the incredible duties of a Queen in a developing nation and the Middle Eastern conflict. She served as a champion for women’s rights, improving children’s lives, and liberalizing the rule of law in Jordan. She also sought to boost the economy with these changes; she started a large arts festival to showcase traditional Jordanian artists which were mostly women. She also implemented a vaccination program for children and a public education system. Lastly, she called for greater freedom of the press. These were all truly progressive ideas in the Middle East, and she handled them with grace and care for Jordanian traditions and respect for the Islamic religion.
Living on a country bordering Israel and being married to a beloved King who passionately pursued peace in the Middle East gave her an incredible vantage point in the late 20th century. I am not very educated on the Middle Eastern conflicts, and her book gave me a better idea of the Arab perspective in layman’s terms. She also effectively described the heartbreaking frustration of the peace negotiations between Arabs and Israelis.
It was a good read. The writing was decent, but her life has been incredible.(less)
Azar Nafisi details her life, focusing on her imperfect relationship with her parents, the political unrest in Iran, and her love of literature. The e...moreAzar Nafisi details her life, focusing on her imperfect relationship with her parents, the political unrest in Iran, and her love of literature. The excellent writing and engaging story makes the book impossible to put down once a reader has started.
A vast majority of readers can sympathize with Azar’s complicated relationship with her mother, Nezhat, who has a very “Jekyll and Hyde” personality. On one hand, Nezhat is bitter about all the challenges she has endured: her mother died young, her stepmother and father treated her badly and would not allow her education. Nezhat’s first husband (her true love) died 2 years after their wedding. On the other hand, Nezhat is no victim; she was an influential person in Tehran and was elected to Parliament. Azar’s does not claim her account of their relationship is accurate, but her perspective is clearly skewed. She is often too hard on her mother, but I can sympathize that the difficult relationship taints even the good times and memories.
Her account of her relationship with her father is equally flawed. Azar adores her father, the man who inspired her love of literature. This devotion causes her to overlook his shortcomings, in particular she aids in his extramarital affairs. Azar’s father is the Mayor of Tehran, and eventually he is arrested which breaks Azar’s heart. Azar is in her late teen years and making important decisions in her life regarding education and marriage, and without her presence, she is a lost and unanchored. This relationship will also be familiar to many readers.
On top of the challenges with her parents, Iran changes substantially while she is young: the Shah is overthrown, Ayatollah Khomeni’s institutes a strict and barbarous rule of law, and the Iran-Iraq war. Azar’s outspoken in her political thoughts, and the book really gives a good feeling for what it was like to live through the upheaval and chaos.
It’s a beautiful book. One I will surely read again.(less)
I am somewhat biased because I grew up near Niagara Falls, NY, but I would have loved this book even if I was from Atlanta. The book is set on the Can...moreI am somewhat biased because I grew up near Niagara Falls, NY, but I would have loved this book even if I was from Atlanta. The book is set on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls from 1915 to 1925. The main character, Bess, endures many successes and tragedies from the age of 17 until she is 26, when the book ends. Her privileged life is abruptly taken away from her, and everyone, including Bess, is pleasantly surprised by her perseverance. While there are frequent references to sacrificing because of the war, the major setting is Niagara Falls, which is very much a character in this book. The book invoked many feelings about Niagara Falls: awe of its majesty, fear of its power, and respect of its economic and social impact.
This love story hits all the traditional major loves: love of your partner, parental love, and sibling love. Loss is also a major theme: the demise of loved ones, sacrifice for the war, loss of lifestyle.
The book is relatively action-packed, but I don’t want to spoil any part of it because all the events were incredible. I highly recommend this book.(less)
The book is fast-paced and a quick read, but it is by no means a light and breezy book. The wit used does not disguise its serious subject matter, dru...moreThe book is fast-paced and a quick read, but it is by no means a light and breezy book. The wit used does not disguise its serious subject matter, drug addiction. True to addict behavior, Oran is completely self-centered and self-absorbed. His autobiographical account of life through 26 and sobriety is well-written and thought-provoking. The chapters alternate between his childhood and his early 20s when he bounced in and out of rehab. His childhood had 2 constants: juggling and inconsistency. His parents, both successful therapists, basically abandoned him. While there are humorous parts, the childhood chapters are sad, as Oran is dumped off and discarded from school to school and location to location. The chapters discussing his drug usage and rehabs are compelling and haunting. They do not glorify an addict’s life, as some other books about alcoholism and drug addiction do. Those chapters are raw and real and recount a very few highs and the numerous and overwhelming lows of his experiences. Canfield is not a likable character (for lack of a better description), but I needed to find out what happened and how he survived his struggle.
I liked the book, but it is not for everyone. Readers should be ready to settle in for some incredibly heartbreaking moments. It’s definitely a story of survival, but there are times I questioned if and how he would make it and whether or not I thought he should make it. (less)