Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani

User avatar
xiaotien
Reader
Location: southern cali
Contact:

Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani

Postby xiaotien » Sat August 30th, 2008, 10:26 pm

anita's debut novel, the blood of flowers, is such
a fantastic read. it received good reviews but i
don't think it was as widely read at all. which
is a real pity. here is the book review i wrote for
it a while back. it's among the top 5 books i read
in 2007. and i read 43 books that year.

[SPOILERS IN REVIEW!!!]

...

set in 17th century persia, the author brings another world to life with rich descriptions of sights, sounds and smells.

the heroine (who remains unnamed throughout the entire book--to honor artisans of the past), loses her father at age fourteen. they live in a small village and come from humble roots. with her father's passing, she and her mother are unable to make ends meet. altho she was meant to have been married soon, it is now impossible as she has no dowry.

they turn to her father's half-brother for help, and he writes to invite them to stay at his home in the impressive city of isfahan. when they arrive, they find that her uncle holds a high office as one of the lead rug makers for the shah and other elite. our heroine has always been a good knotter (rug maker) and her uncle takes her under his wing.

she enjoys life in the big city, despite the fact that her aunt treats her and her mother like servants. they sleep in a tiny dirty room between the latrine and storeroom. our heroine befriends naheed, a girl from a wealthy family who is her same age, and they become friends. naheed convinces her to attend polo games so naheed may attract the attention of her crush--whom she intends to marry.

life changes for our heroine when she is offered a sigheh--a legal marriage union lasting three months--to a rich young widower. her aunt siezes it as an opportunity to ingratiate the family to perhaps gain rug commisions, as well as take the financial burden off of taking care of them, as our heroine would be paid for this union. and the sigheh can be renewed on a three month basis--if her husband is pleased. but they must keep this contract under wraps, as it is seen as shameful to the richer families (such as her aunt and uncle).

when our heroine agrees to this arrangement and loses her viriginity is when the story starts twisting every which way. we see her rashness as her strongest foible, and she repeatedly makes mistakes because of it.

the author disperses persian folklore throughout the tale, much like fables. the tale is told in the first person narrative, and the prose is lyrical. the author really brings you into this other place. an excellent debut novel. i took special interest in the tale as there are similar themes between her book and my own. i am impressed by her ability to create a quiet story that is still filled with intrigue and tension. i recommend it and consider it among the top five novels i have read in 2007.
Last edited by xiaotien on Sat August 30th, 2008, 11:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.
SILVER PHOENIX : Beyond the Kingdom of Xia
greenwillow / harpercollins summer '09

cindypon.com

User avatar
diamondlil
Bibliomaniac

Postby diamondlil » Sat August 30th, 2008, 10:36 pm

Once there was a girl who could make glorious carpets from wool tinted with the essence of orange safflowers and pomegranates

In Persia, in the seventeenth century, a young woman is forced to leave behind the life she knows and move to a new city. Her father's unexpected death has upended everything - her expectation of marriage, her plans for the future - and cast her and her mother upon the mercy of relatives in the fabled city of Isfahan.

Her uncle is a wealthy designer of carpets for the Shah's court, and the young woman is instantly drawn to his workshop. She takes in everything - the dyes, the yarns, the meanings of the thousand ancient patters - and quickly begins designing carpets herself. This is men's work, but her uncle recognizes both her passion and her talent and allows her secretly to cross that line.

But then a single disastrous, headstrong act threatens her very existence and casts her and her mother into an even more desperate situation. She is forced into an untenable form of marriage, a marriage contract renewable monthly, for a fee, to a wealthy businessman. Caught between forces she can barely comprehend, she knows only that she must act on her own, risking everything, or face a life lived at the whim of others.

The world of medieval Persia comes alive in this luminous novel, from its dazzling architecture to its bustling markets with their baskets of spices and breathtaking turquoise-and-gold rugs. With spellbinding Persian tales and prose as radiant as the city of Isfahan, The Blood of Flowers is the remarkable adventure of one woman choosing a life - against all odds - on the strength of her own hands, mind and will.




Sometimes it is a real breath of fresh air to read about an unusual time and place, especially when the story is also well written and interesting! The setting for this book in 17th century Persia, during the time of Shah Abbas, and features a young girl who is trying to make her way into the male dominated world of carpet making.

The author was very skilled at weaving together both the story of the girl, but also details about the techniques used in the designing of carpets, in the selection of the colours to make the carpets, and the precision required by the carpet knotters. There are also several old Persian tales that have been interwoven into the narrative, used to illustrate and to guide our young heroine.

When one of the town elders brings back the almanac for the year, the small country town is interested to see what is destined for their lives - for marriages, births, the harvest etc. For one young girl in particular she is interested to hear what is going to come as she is now of a marriageable age. This year is an unusual one though. There has been a comet in the night sky, and everyone knows that that means bad luck. For the small but happy family, that ominous sign comes to eventuality when her father dies, leaving her and her mother to fend for themselves. After running out of resources, including those that were meant to be her dowry, the two head to the big city to request assistance from the brother of the husband and father.

Once in the city, the pair become basically house servants, but the young girl gets to visit the great carpet market making workshop owned by the Shah, which is run by her uncle, and gradually her uncle begins to teach her many of the secrets of the process, including design, colour selection and knotting with the most luxurious of threads.

After being caught acting rashly more than once, the young girl is contracted with a sigheh - a renewable marriage contract, that everyone involved in has agreed to keep this secret. The end result of this is given that there is now no dowry left, the girl is being forced to give away the only thing she has left of any value - her virginity. It takes a long time for our heroine to get used to the ways of her husband and to learn the secret of wifely enjoyment, and there are several times throughout the story that her mother is worried that the sigheh will not be renewed, which means that the contracted price won't be paid. It is quite an interesting contrast. By day the girl is a servant, subject to her aunt's somewhat nasty treatment, using every spare minute she has to learn to make carpets. By night, she is a wife, albeit subject to her husband's whims.

Life then offers a choice - to continue as things are, or to take a chance at having a different and more independent life. There are many lessons to be learned, and many of them are painful. There are times when things get much worse before they get better, but our girl's spirit is strong, and she is willing to learn the lessons that life is teaching her!

This book took 9 years to write, and you can tell that for the author this was a labour of love! It took me a couple of days to read it, and it was a joy to read! Filled with the colour and allure of different cultures and times, this is a really good read. I definitely hope to read more by this author!

Rating 4.5/5

Ash
Bibliomaniac
Location: Arizona, USA

Postby Ash » Sat August 30th, 2008, 10:56 pm

I liked this book quite a lot, and am surprised its not widely read. Reminded me a bit of The Unicorn Tapestry with the same attention to detail about weaving; otherwise it is a totally different place and time, one that the author brings to life. I had a few quibbles about it - whether certain people would have made the decisions they did, but otherwise liked it and would recommend it (probably 4 stars)

Ash
Bibliomaniac
Location: Arizona, USA

Postby Ash » Sat August 30th, 2008, 10:57 pm

Um, is it common to include spoilers in these reviews? If so, could you please warn readers? I know about this book, its not a biggie. But if I hadn't and had planned to read it, I would not have been amused....

User avatar
Kailana
Reader
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
Contact:

Postby Kailana » Sat August 30th, 2008, 11:03 pm

I really liked this book when I read it too! It was very different and I liked that about it.

User avatar
xiaotien
Reader
Location: southern cali
Contact:

Postby xiaotien » Sat August 30th, 2008, 11:16 pm

thanks, ash.

i write reviews for the book book
and it's always a pretty full length
review with [spoilers].

so i've put a warning up.
SILVER PHOENIX : Beyond the Kingdom of Xia

greenwillow / harpercollins summer '09



cindypon.com

User avatar
Divia
Bibliomaniac
Location: Always Cloudy, Central New York

Postby Divia » Sat August 30th, 2008, 11:16 pm

OMG I love this book so much. I wish the author write another one.
News, views, and reviews on books and graphic novels for young adult.
http://yabookmarks.blogspot.com/

User avatar
diamondlil
Bibliomaniac

Postby diamondlil » Sat August 30th, 2008, 11:17 pm

You and me both. Although given that this book took so long to write I am not expecting another one in the near future.

Carla
Compulsive Reader
Contact:

Postby Carla » Wed October 22nd, 2008, 6:19 pm

The Blood of Flowers, by Anita Amirrezvani. Book review
Edition reviewed: Back Bay Books, 2008. ISBN 978-0-316-06577-1. 368 pages

The Blood of Flowers is set in Iran in the 1620s, during the reign of Shah Abbas. All the characters are fictional (Shah Abbas himself gets a walk-on part).

The unnamed narrator of the novel is a girl of fifteen when her father dies, leaving her and her mother alone with no livelihood. Her wealthy uncle Gostaham, a successful carpet designer and manager of the Shah’s carpet workshop in the magnificent city of Isfahan, takes them in as poor relations. His wife Gordiyeh resents their presence, and never misses an opportunity to remind them of their lowly status. The narrator chafes at being treated as a servant, and is eager to develop her talents as a carpet maker and designer under Gostaham’s kindly tutelage, But her impetuous nature leads her into a series of rash decisions that threaten her and her mother’s security, and even their lives. Can she survive, and has she learned enough from her mistakes to build a new life?

This is an elegant and deceptively simple story of a young woman’s coming of age, set against the background of the flourishing carpet industry in 17th-century Isfahan. For me, the unusual setting was a key strength of the novel. I knew virtually nothing about it beforehand, and The Blood of Flowers does an excellent job of bringing Isfahan to bustling life. The food, clothing, climate, buildings, bath-houses, markets and bazaars are all described, together with techniques of carpet design and manufacture, social structure and customs. Yet the novel never feels weighed down by detail. I found the social structures and customs especially interesting. The narrator experiences life in a wealthy family home, in the slums inhabited by poor workers and servants, and even as a beggar on the streets, so the novel provides a wide-ranging view of life as lived by different social classes. It also explores social customs such as the sigheh (temporary marriage) and the segregation of women. Seven folk-tales or fables are interspersed with the main narrative, and while these were of variable success as stories in their own right and as counterpoint to the main narrative, they helped to create the impression of a rich culture with a long heritage. In this respect they reminded me of the rabbit folk-tales in Watership Down. The ones I thought worked best were the ones identified by the author as based on traditional Iranian tales.

The characters are attractively human, with a mixture of good and bad qualities. Gostaham is kindly, but under his wife’s thumb. The narrator means well and is warm-hearted, but she is reckless, often thoughtless, and incapable of telling the difference between an inspired idea and a disastrous one. Even the unkind aunt Gordiyeh, who is capable of treating her poor relations cruelly, can be kind when she does not feel threatened.

The coming-of-age story, with its none-too-subtle messages about female empowerment, seemed to me to be trying a bit too hard to prove its modern relevance. Not knowing the first thing about 17th-century Iranian society, I have no idea whether the narrator’s eventual fate is credible. To its credit, though, the novel presents her as exceptional, and shows plenty of other female characters in rather more conventional roles.

The writing style is clear and deceptively simple. I’d describe it as ‘transparent’, in the sense that I stopped noticing the words and felt as if I was looking through them and watching the characters getting on with their lives in their own world. In a way, it reminded me of traditional folk-tales. The novel is recounted entirely in first person by the narrator, who is never named. I often dislike first-person novels, but this one worked well, perhaps because the narrator seems to be more interested in the world and the people around her than on brooding over her own troubles.

I found the ending excessively abrupt, so much so that at first I thought there must be some pages missing. Having seen the narrator grow up and take control of her own life, I would have liked to know what she did with it, even if only in an epilogue. As it is, the novel finishes with a ‘folk-tale’ invented by the author (i.e., not one based on a traditional tale). I presume that it’s a subtle metaphor for the narrator’s fate, but even after reading it several times, I confess that it’s too subtle for me.

There’s a helpful Author’s Note, and a question-and-answer session with the author, which explains some of the background to the story. A map would have been useful for readers who aren’t familiar with the geography of Iran, though most of the story takes place within the city of Isfahan and the references to other places are mostly peripheral.

Elegant story about a young woman finding her way in life, which will also painlessly teach you a lot about carpet making and 17th-century Iranian culture.
PATHS OF EXILE - love, war, honour and betrayal in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria
Editor's Choice, Historical Novels Review, August 2009
Now available as e-book on Amazon Kindleand in Kindle, Epub (Nook, Sony Reader), Palm and other formats on Smashwords
Website: http://www.carlanayland.org
Blog: http://carlanayland.blogspot.com

User avatar
Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Wed October 22nd, 2008, 7:12 pm

I did enjoy it, especially the writing but it's not one I'm likely to read again. I think my main problem was the female empowerment as Carly stated, as well as the rushed ending. As for the main character I didn't find myself caring much for her, especially with the selfish choices she made. I really didn't "like" anyone except for the mother. I found it a good, but not a great read and one I'm not likely to read again.


Return to “By Author's Last Name A-F”