Posted by: Corri van de Stege | December 27, 2008

Christmas over – moving towards 2009 via a book review

And then, before you can count to three it’s all over.  We’ve wrapped the presents and unpacked them, we ate our turke, christmas puddings and pies and drank our wine, we enjoyed each other’s company and now we are scattering again.   My cold (a chest infection in reality) kept me awake at night but snoozes on the sofa in the afternoon made up for lost sleep (still do).   Books were given and received, and are now being read.  A few more days of being lost in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve and then we will start 2009:

Credit crunch, recession, housing bust, unemployed, enjoying home life, tightening our belts, draw back in and curl up on the sofa with a good book.  Are these the headlines?

A MemoirOne of the books I received is Persian Girls, by Nahid Rachlin – it is a lovely and well written memoir of a an Iranian woman writer.  Nahid Rachlin grew up in Iran in the time of the Shah up till the revolution, when her father allows her to travel to America to study there.  It is clear that he only allows her to go because he is becoming worried about her reading habits, buying books that are ‘forbidden’, and hence they might be  noticed as a family by the secret police.   He is desperate to avoid giving any cause for persecution.  The book relates the often difficult and despairing lives girls and women lead in a country where male supremacy reigns and where women have few rights, are either subject to their father’s decrees or, once married, their husband’s laws and impositions. 

I became so engrossed in reading this, in particular because it describes situations and conflicts that I witnessed up close when I lived in Iran prior to and during the revolution and Khomeini’s return to Tehran and then Qom, that I could not put it down and fnished it.  Only wishing there was more.  Nahid Rachlin has written other books, fictionalising her sisters’ lives for example in The Heart’s Desire and Married to a Stranger.  The one that I would like to read now, simply for the connotation with some of the zoroastrian customs that I remember so well, is Jumping over Fire. 

Nahid Rachlin has her own website where you can find out more about her and her writing.  Since leaving Iran for College in America, she has spent the rest of her life there, and has held various univeristy teaching positions.  Persian Girls, relates the story in particular of her relationship with her sister Pari who is forced into a marriage that she does not want and as so many Iranian woman, ends up a divorcee who loses contact with her only child, is desperately unhappy, marries again and again finds herself subject to her husband’s strictures.  It is only when she hears the news that Pari has died after falling down stairs, that Nahid returns to Iran to confront some of her past and to find out what happened to Pari, but also to her mother (Mohtaram), her adopted mother, Mothraram’s sister Maryam and her sisterManijeh, who for a long time she considered almost as an enemy but ultimately comes to understand better. 

This is a lovely book and if you are interested in the lives of women in different cultures, and want to understand some of the Iranian culture and its restrictions on women, then this is the book for you.



  1. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed your Christmas, and have found a good book to curl up with.

    I hadn’t heard of Persian Girls before, so will look out for it. I really enjoyed Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran which similarly looked at modern Iranian history and the lives of women. Apparently Nafisi’s second book is due out next year, whihc is something to look forward to.

  2. I haven’t heard of this one, but it does sound very interesting. I watched Perseopolis (based on the graphic novel of the same name) which is also set in Iran. Very enjoyable as well, and it got me interested in that part of the world. Thanks for the rec!

  3. a devoted reader: Yes, I also read Reading Lolita in Tehran, as you say, another book about women living in Tehran and how they cope with all the restrictions imposed on them. Thanks for the tip about Nafisi’s second book: I’ll look forward to that.
    Kim L: I loved Persopolis, I have both the book and the dvd and only the other day it was watched once more in this house…. You’ll like Pesian Girls if you liked Persopolois.

  4. This does sound quite interesting…I’m always amazed and a bit horrified by the restrictions imposed on women in these societies. Thanks for the excellent review.

    Happy New Year!

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