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The Woman Who Read too Much
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The Woman Who Read too Much

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  225 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Gossip was rife in the capital about the poetess of Qazvin. Some claimed she had been arrested for masterminding the murder of the grand Mullah, her uncle. Others echoed her words, and passed her poems from hand to hand. Everyone spoke of her beauty, and her dazzling intelligence. But most alarming to the Shah and the court was how the poetess could read. As her warnings a ...more
336 pages
Published May 2015 by Stanford University Press
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Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Rowena by: Proustitute
"If one were to believe her highness, the whole country was on the verge of revolution, with women deploying an artillery of inflammatory prose, wielding books like bucklers, and taking up pens as if they were swords." Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, The Woman Who Read Too Much

Most of my favourite fiction books have a strong feminist element. This is the kind of book I adore; stories of women refusing to accept traditional or patriarchal values and vowing to live the lives they wish to lead regardless of
A couple of months ago I was browsing through the antiquarian book stalls where I live. The vendors are very dedicated people; all year around they sell their wares in the market square under the high heavens, only covering their delicate paper goods with tarpaulins when the inclemencies threaten to dilute the ink and turn the cloth covers into rags. Fortunately it was sunny the day I was there so everything was on show, even the older and more fragile volumes. I fingered the binding of some, tu ...more
Sep 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sue by: MENA
The Woman Who Read too Much has been a truly wonderful surprise as I have never read any of Bahíyyih Nakhjavání's writing before, nor have I read anything about Tahirih Qurratu’l-Ayn, the 19th c. Iranian theologian and advocate for women's literacy who was fleshed out to become the model for the titular poetess. What an exciting discovery on both counts. The action of this historically based fiction occurs during the second half of the 19th century and is bookended by assassination attempts on ...more
Because of its title, I was destined to read this novel. I am the woman who reads too much. But for the poetess of Qazvin, her excessive reading brought tragedy and an early death, while for me it is saving my sanity.

Let me say right off that this is an extremely challenging read. Its larger than life characters go by several names and titles each. It is set in mid 19th century Persia. It is told from four different points of view. The time sequence is a tangled and overlapping web. If I hadn't
Leslie Reese
May 06, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5 elegant stars
The Woman Who Read Too Much is a novel inspired by the life of Tahirih Qurratu’l-Ayn---a hugely mysterious figure about whom even less would be known were it not for the “foreign diplomats, travellers, and scholars” who spread her infamy into the West during the 19th century. It is known that she was born into and educated by a family of mullahs who apparently took things too far. She pursued independent thought and sharp reasonings which emboldened her to challenge the religiou
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
The Woman Who Read too Much by Bahíyyih Nakhjavání is based on the life of the 19th century Persian poet, theologian, radical thinker, and staunch advocate for women’s rights, Tahirih Qurratu’l-Ayn. The novel pays homage to Qurratu’l-Ayn for challenging orthodox interpretations of Islam and for her insistence on a woman’s right to literacy. Qurratu’l-Ayn, referred to throughout the novel as the poetess of Qazvin, is a courageous, brilliant, and stunningly beautiful woman who refuses to compromis ...more
Feb 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Un texte superbe sur la condition de la femme au sein de la culture musulmane. En Iran, au XIXème siècle, une poétesse est emprisonnée pour ses prises de position. C'est en effet elle qui a demandé le divorce et quitté son mari.

Sur ordre du Shah, elle se retrouve donc enfermée dans la résidence du maire. Mais sa présence n'est pas sans susciter des questions. Cette femme, plus cultivée que les hommes qui l'entourent, est dangereuse aux yeux de ces derniers.

Autour d'elle, le destin de plusieurs p
Nov 22, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to love this, but I just didn't. Slow. Meandering storyline and jumbled timelines frustrated a potentially interesting story with a vitally important message about female literacy. Disappointing.
The title seems like an oxymoron.
Sherry Schwabacher
Táhirih (Arabic: "The Pure One") or Qurratu'l-`Ayn (Arabic: "Solace/Consolation of the Eyes") are both titles of Fátimih Baraghání (1814 or 1817 - August 16-27, 1852), an influential poet and theologian of the Bábí Faith in Iran. Her life, influence, and execution made her a key figure of the religion. Bahíyyih Nakhjavání has written a novel that takes the raw facts of Táhirih's life and creates a dreamlike meditation on her influence on women's rights, famously stating to the Grand Vazir "You c ...more
May 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dunque, era stato solo per quello? [...] Tutti quei complotti e quelle congiure, arresti e interrogatori, accoltellamenti, avvelenamenti, gelosie e recriminazioni, non erano stati altro che racconti, nient'altro che storie?
Creazione e rivelazione non hanno niente a che fare con tutto questo. Lasciate che i preti facciano suonare le loro campane. Questi libri non sono sacri, anche se ci sono dentro delle madri. Nessuno di essi è il Grande Libro di tutti i libri. Le storie non hanno simili presunz
Eleonora Splendiani
Sono delusa.... Ero rimasta affascinata dalla quarta di copertina ed ho iniziato a leggere con molto entusiasmo... Quattro punti di vista differenti che narrano la medesima storia, quella della poetessa di Qazvin,un personaggio scomodo quanto potente.
Belli i temi toccati, l'emancipazione femminile, il contesto storico interessante, la visione dell'occidente in una Persia del 1800, il coraggio e l'intelligenza di una donna che sceglie di non essere schiava.... ma il libro è scritto davvero con i
Feb 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adultlit
This book is not easy to read because the reader is plunged headlong into a time and space that's unlabeled and totally unfamiliar (unless maybe you are properly schooled in the history of Iran). I picked it up because I was intrigued by a book that had been translated into so many other languages first before it was published in English. The novel is a collection of "books" written from the points of view of different female characters and their interaction about the Poetess of Qazvin, a litera ...more
While I like the idea of a book about an historical person who actually fought for women's education in 19th Century Persia, I was disappointed by the author's writing style. Many things were repeated in a confusing way and the storyline was difficult to be followed. I had the impression that the author wanted to show her artistic and writing skills by writing complicated chapters and an by using an alternative narration, but that the trick didn't work. The books could have been way more interes ...more
Nov 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Tahirih was one of the earliest feminists. Born in Persia (Iran) in the early 19th century, Tahirih bucked tradition by becoming well-educated and discussing theology with men. This book portrays the life of Tahirih as well as many of her supporters and enemies in a very interesting way. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in feminism.
Umbereen Beg-mirza
Jun 24, 2015 rated it liked it
I desperately wanted to like this book- having loved the Saddlebag. But the book is slow and thick like treacle- pages and pages of the same words, slowly swirling towards a conclusion we already know.
Veronica Velasco
Dec 24, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandonados
El argumento me ha encantado. Pero leí 100 páginas y 100 paginas repitiendo lo mismo sobre un hecho ocurrido (un asesinato e intrigas) y la mujer que leía solo salió en 1 párrafo… no pude seguir leyéndolo, me aburrió muchísimo. Luego eche un vistazo en los capítulos que hay en el libro y veo sigue hablando del mismo asesinato visto desde otro punto de vista.. resumen me pareció muy repetitivo y lo que yo buscaba que es la historia de la mujer apenas apareció.
Definitivamente lo abandoné.
"A woman should know her place."

- the grand Mullah, uncle/father-in-law of the poetess of Qazvin

This is a story about a woman who most definitely did not know her place, or rather, she rejected the "place" that her society assigned to her. The story is based on a real woman, Tahirih Qurratu'l-Ayn, the poetess of Qazvin, who lived and died in the mid 19th century in Persia, during the time of the Qajar dynasty.

The poetess was the daughter of a Mullah who took the unusual step of defying the stri
Sin terminar.

Lo he dejado oficialmente; no digo que no lo vaya a leer y terminar nunca, pero por ahora ahí se queda, en el limbo, porque no me he visto capacitada para terminarlo. No es que no me haya gustado o que me haya horrorizado, sino que he ido perdiendo las ganas de leerlo y me cuesta mucho ponerme con él, para mi desgracia.

Mantengo lo dicho durante mi lectura del mismo (que he avanzado más desde lo último indicado, pero ya no merece la pena ni marcarlo), la autora sabe escribir de mane
Jan 26, 2016 rated it liked it
While this novel has rich prose, the story seemed somewhat repetitive, slow and grating. I am wondering if I didn't have the patience without the cultural knowledge or context. The book was "inspired by a nineteenth-century Persian woman, Tahirith Qurrwtu'l-Ayn, a renowned poet and theologian, radical and outcast." It revolved back and forth upon itself about the misunderstanding, mistrust, and implications of an Englishwoman who could read and had knowledge and religion. The Poetess of Qazvin, ...more
J.S. Dunn
Dense prose, the specific gravity of say, the planet Jupiter [ if that is still classed as a planet]. But the subject matter is the downer. Bring a rusty razor blade for the human condition looks hopeless in the mideast. After all, they have yet to have plumbing.

My appetite has dwindled for tales of how awful certain mideastern cultures are. When are they going to catch up? What's with the willful ignorance?

The most striking thing about this tale is how little society has changed in Iran since
Daniela Jannuzzi
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quattro stelle piene per questo romanzo particolare. Dal titolo ci si potrebbe aspettare la storia di una donna, in realtà ci troviamo davanti alla storia di un intero paese. Il libro è diviso in più parti e tocca i punti di vista di tutte la persona che hanno a vuto contati con questa donna coraggiosa. Ma si tratta anche della storia di tutte le donne, nella Persia ottocentesca. Essere donna era difficile, eppure questa figura coraggiosa ha sfidato le convezioni di un paese maschilista e ha ape ...more
Kelsey Breseman
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
Perhaps I read this in the wrong mood, but I found the slow pace of this book really hard to get through. It's a lovely mosaic, multifaceted, quietly rebellious, interspersed with sumptuous metaphor. And for all that, I was mostly just glad to finish :/
Elisa Vangelisti
Mar 22, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: estratto, abbandonato
valutazione dell'estratto di amazon
decisamente non fa per me
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's too close to me finishing this to be coherent and 'review'. For now: I loved it. I want to read it again. I wish I had read it slower to make it last longer. Read it.
Jeffrey Brown
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the best I've read
Apr 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Une reflection poétique sur la condition féminine dans l'islam, le résiliance et la spiritualité.
Katarina Nabokovna
Un livre écrit par une femme, sur la vie d’une femme et destiné à toutes les femmes...
Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, une écrivaine iranienne raconte l’histoire de Tahirih Qurratu’l-Ayn, une femme libre et rhétoricienne exceptionnelle qui osa affronter le pouvoir des hommes religieux et fondamentalistes dans la Teheran du xix siècle, une ville meurtrie par l’injustice et la discrimination envers les femmes. Icône du féminisme et de la liberté, le nom de la poétesse de Qazvin était devenu un synonyme de sc
Esther Bradley-detally
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read this quite a while back. It is about Tahireh , the famed Poetess in Persia, herald of a prophecy of women's equality, and much much more. So fine.
Jim Puskas
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
I realize my assessment of this book is far out of step with most readers but I had several serious problems with it. First of all, the time-scale and sequence of events is so badly scrambled that it becomes almost impossible to follow the plot; there are several events that could not possibly have occurred as as described. Likewise, the actions of more than one character are at times blended together so seamlessly, even within a single sentence that it makes no sense. This is not being clever, ...more
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Bahiyyih Nakhjavání is a Persian writer educated in the United Kingdom and the United States. After teaching literature at universities in North America and Europe, she came to live in France where she has been conducting workshops in creative writing/reading for the past decade. Bahiyyih Nakhjavání's books, both fiction and non-fiction, have been translated into many languages. In 2007, she recei ...more