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The Cypress Tree: A Love Letter to Iran

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  271 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Kamin Mohammadi was nine years old when her family fled Iran during the 1979 Revolution. Bewildered by the seismic changes in her homeland, she turned her back on the past and spent her teenage years trying to fit in with British attitudes to family, food and freedom. She was twenty-seven before she returned to Iran, drawn inexorably back by memories of her grandmother's h ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published July 1st 2011 by Bloomsbury UK
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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Jan 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Since I would never visit most of the world, nor meet the people, my method of addressing the dream is to read books about the places. It is for this reason that I bought The Cypress Tree. It is a memoir. Yes. Very important. It is not a suspense thriller.

Memoirs, as we know, do not sweep us up into wonderland, speeding us into high octane, high speed actions or screaming adventures, totally disconnected from reality. Instead, memoirs is more often reality with the spotlight switch on, in such
Dec 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
I actually paused this book after a few chapters and came back to it a few months later and I wish I read it sooner. Kamin transports you to a world that is exotic and beautiful and rich with culture. She takes you on her journey that is filled with heartache and longing and every page I turned made me yearn for my own motherland.
I will preface this post by saying I did check all the screws on my chair before starting.

I thought this book was a novel. It's not. It was a bit of a disappointment. Not the book as a whole. Just when you settle down to read a story and you know, you have a doona and a glass of wine and you've suspended your disbelief and are ready to be transported. Then 10 pages in you just go "Well, fuck." I don't dislike memoirs. I just prepare for them differently to novels. And as I have read a few lately
Shailee Basu
May 04, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: books-i-have
Had so many expectations from the book but it was a disappointment from all fronts. Reminiscent of a privileged big Indian family shuffling between Delhi and London and boasting about their so called "good and respectable family", reeking of privilege and capital. Lack of insight, informative to the point that a simple reading of Wikipedia would have told me more about Iran than this book centered around Iran did. I honestly learnt more about Iran from reading an ICJ case about the Anglo-Iranian ...more
Aug 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-lives, poc
This is a really interesting and complex memoir-meets-history with a beautiful sense of place and lovely turns of phrase. Bear with this book: just when you think Mohammadi's glasses are a bit too rose-tinted, she brings things back to reality.

It's not perfect, but it's a far more nuanced take on Iran than this American's ever had, and I wish it were more widely available stateside.
Rune Clausen
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful positive memoir of the authors family, from 2 generations back. Details her own flight from Iran along with her parents right after the revolution in 1979, ending up in the UK, where the author decided to reject her iranian identiy for years, while accustoming to her new british life. The author then goes on to go back to Iran in the late 90's, and again regains the iranian identity and falls in love with Iran and its people.

Its a very affirming memoir, showing all the bright sides o
May 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Enjoyed this insight into one sprawling Iranian family's experiences of twentieth century Iran. If anything it could have been more in depth- a lot of issues were skated over in a paragraph when I really wanted to know more. There were numerous contradictions- but I guess that was her point- and at times I got infuriated with her assumption that her family's interactions were a uniquely Iranian phenomenon (coming from a sprawling British family I saw a lot that was familiar). But a good read, an ...more
Jul 25, 2018 rated it liked it
A successful Irani family seeks refuge in England at the start of the 1979 Revolution. The perspective is of the daughter of the family who leaves her motherland at age 9, intergrates with the Brits then reconnects with her extended family in her adulthood.

The story is a combination of autobiography and history. Each place visited is given an historical summary before launching into the various family members living there - and there are many.

Several important human issues are explored - religi
Jul 20, 2011 rated it liked it
An interesting perspective on the Iranian revolution and what happened to both those who left (and lived in exile in the west) and those who stayed. The author has a very nostalgic view of the Shah's Iran, she admits the flaws, but her family was unusually wealthy and successful - so she has a memory of carefree, wonderful days that probably are far from the day to day toil of the average pre-revolutionary Iranian. By going back she is able to challenge her nostalgic memories and understand toda ...more
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
An interesting perspective on the Iranian revolution, the events leading up to it and the effect it had on people's lives. However, I struggled with the first half of the book as there were too many relatives and moving around from city to city and I had to keep flipping back to the front which had a map of Iran and a sort of family tree. If it weren't for that I would have lost interest.

I did enjoy the second half of the book when the author returns to Iran after many years of exile. Her perspe
Louise Davy
Feb 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommended to Louise by: Found on the bookshop shelf
Shelves: non-fiction
A really interesting insight of an adult's reflection on being a refugee, aged nine, from Iran during the 1979 revolution. The author moves backwards and forwards in time. Adequately written, and very moving, but not lyrical writing. ...more
Saturday's Child
Dec 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Not only just an insight into Iran this book is also a story of families and their lives before, during and after the Revolution.
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful...I had to force myself to stop reading so I can cherish every moment of reading this beautiful story!
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was such an interesting book. As someone who has been to Iran before, and has been captivated by the charm of the country and its citizens, I found that this book provides a very nuanced picture of Iranian society. If all you know about Iran is based on what you read on the papers, then this book would be a positive surprise.

See, that was my frame of mind when I first visited Iran back in September 2016. Of course I had this idea that there's more to Iran than what one typically reads in th
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I think this book advocates for how complicated 'culture' is, but why it is so enriching to learn as much about these complications as possible, and why personal anecdotes are such a crucial part of this world. I've read this cover to cover but I feel like I should keep it as a reference copy as there are a lot of nuances that might take a little while or another (few) read(s) to give the engagement they deserve. But the style is so impressive, a story of a big family, with big hearts in a compl ...more
Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Beautiful, informative, and emotional, The Cypress Tree has helped me see and better understand a culture both foreign to me and misrepresented (like so many non-Christian, non-white cultures) in my childhood history texts. Misrepresentations now deeply entrenched in American culture. Kamin Mohammadi tells her family’s stories with humor and tenderness. She writes powerfully of her hopes for the future of her beloved homeland and the wise and thoughtful women it contains. I’m so glad to have thi ...more
Jennifer Lawler
Oct 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Journalist Kamin left Iran with her mother, sister and father in 1979.
She was just ten years of age and struggled to leave behind her huge close-knit family in Iran for the life of an immigrant family in Britain.
It was twenty years later before Kamin returns to Iran and the journey was her opportunity to learn about her family’s history and the effect of the Iran-Iraq war on those they left behind.

A fascinating insight on a topic much discussed but very rarely understood from a human perspect
Alice Le gall
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great introduction to Iranian history and culture, told through the lifestories of the author's family members and ancestors. The book takes you through 20th century Iran, from the oil boom to the shah's glory years and later downfall, up until the 2000s - in a very personal, lively and colourful description of the country and its people. ...more
Oct 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Cypress Tree, in a word, is a gem and waiting to be discovered by the curious readers out there.

Bredo Erichsen
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was a good combination of a personal development and the history of Iran the last 100 years. Many of the reflections around being in two cultures was very interesting.

I now want to visit Iran, but think I first have to learn Farsi. In other words, I will visit Iran in some years.
Mark Renaud
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
A lovely insight into Iran and its history, struggles, challenges and beauty. Also a heartwarming story of a family that negotiates its way through this history!! Enjoyed this read!
Subiya Fatima
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the most poignant books. Gives a great insight into the Iranian revolution and politics. Beautifully brings out the vulnerability and strength in a family at the same time.
Jill Young
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Jun 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Pair this with Shah of Shahs by Ryszard Kapuściński. Together they produce an incredible view of revolution, from within a tight-knit family tree and from the eyes of a curious outsider.
Katherine Kreuter
May 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
This was interesting in places, but it was not well structured which rather harmed the enjoyment. The opening section reads too much like something from the Iranian tourist board. When you get into her family dynamics, the story of the two very different histories of her mother and father are quite interesting. But in places the writer gets off track and the narrative moves back and forth so it's hard to know where you are. I will remember many lovely snippets from the book, e.g. the ladies in f ...more
Eddy Hendriksen
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The best description of life in Iran that I have read. This is essentially a biography of it's UK/Iranian author. It has a particular focus in that it details how she came to understand and fall in love with her Persian identity after first rejecting it for many years as a child in the UK. I loved her writing style and her descriptions of life in Iran pre and post revolution left me wanting to visit this beautiful country again. ...more
Ravi Abhyankar
Sep 09, 2014 rated it did not like it
Mohammadi, Kamin. The Cypress Tree, Bloomsbury, London, 2011 (Pages 288, paperback)

Rating: 1/10

I have always enjoyed Iranian films. The newspapers create one image of Iran, and the Iranian films create another. When my book club suggested we read a book written by an Iranian woman, I looked forward to it. To truly enjoy a book (or a film for that matter), I like to know as little as possible. I don’t read the back cover, don’t read the reviews. Let the novel unfold itself to me through its pages
Jun 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
I previewed this as a potential book for Gettysburg College's Syria & Iran: Beyond the Headlines series, to be held in 2014-015. There will be one book discussion each semester (in addition to lectures and film screenings). The series is a continuation of Conflict & Resistance in the Middle East, held during the 2011-12 academic year.

I didn't finish this book because it didn't seem appropriate for our series. The author focused a little too much on Iran's "glory days" under Cyrus the Great and h
Sep 01, 2013 rated it liked it
A memoir of a family coping with the tragic events facing the people of Iran told by a young woman whose family fled Iran after the Islamic Revolution. As an adult she returns to Iran to reconnect with her extended family. But the Persian/Iranian diaspora has scattered her family all over the world. A moving story but sometimes difficult to follow the convoluted family relationships. The list of characters at the end would have been better as a family tree at the beginning and the addition of a ...more
Kym Hamer
Jan 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: expat-adventures
This is a wonderful read and a real insight into a culture I had previously given little thought to. We often read expat stories about those who choose to emigrate (even as a 'trailing spouse' so to speak) but imagine the heartbreak of being forced to leave, to feel that your new culture contravenes the old one and that, as a result, you have to wear two faces. A must read. ...more
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