Noel's Reviews > The Septembers of Shiraz

The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer
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's review
Apr 10, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: lit-and-fiction
Read in October, 2008

This is some sort of a fictionalized memoir, a novel based on the author's life, and the lives of her family. It takes place in Iran in 1981-1982, right after the deposition of the Shah of Iran. Isaac is a Jew, born and raised in Iran, he is a jeweler and gemologist, he has accumulated a certain degree of wealth, has a beautiful home and a summer house, has traveled abroad and has rubbed elbows with the old regime. He knew his days were numbered in the new Tehran, and one morning he meets his fate as members of the Revolutionary Guard come to his office to take him into custody and interrogate him. The easy going days of the Shah are gone, together with the liberties and freedoms of the iranian citizens, and the terror filled, fundamentalist, righteous regime of the Ayatollah Homeini has started. Isaac is accused of being a Zionist spy, because of his many trips to Israel and is thrown in a cell with a very diverse population of anti-regime men. His son, Parvez, is studying in New York City, very much a loner, and more so after finding out the fate of his father. He goes through the motions in this huge city, but is barely existing, a bit of a whiny, needy character.

Back home, Isaac's wife and daughter try to cope with the uncertainty of not knowing where Isaac is, knowing that there are executions daily, and wondering which of their friends will betray them. Farnaz realizes that the cush life she once enjoyed will never come back, her young daughter, only 9 years old, quietly and secretly saves a few lives and grows up way too soon. Weeks turn into months, Isaac is interrogated and tortured, but survives. His captors and torturers have their stories, as do his housekeeper and her son who worked in Isaac's office. This is one of the strengths of the book. The author shows both sides of the coin, in as subjective a way as possible, given the fact that this is in part her own story.

The plight of the many refugees who have arrived on the shores of this country and so many others is a tale that needs to be told. So many times we get in a cab, hire a painter, or call to have our yards worked on - these are real people with real stories of persecution, greed, starting over, forgetting past lives -- and they deserve a listen.

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