The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani
Set in Iran in the 1620s during the reign of Shah Abbas the Great (1571-1629), the unnamed narrator charts the course of her life, starting with the happy time with her parents in their small village in the south. When her father’s sudden death forces them into poverty, her mother sends news to her father’s older half-brother, who offers to take them in with his family in the capital. Upon their arrival they discover the wife treats them as servants, having them prepare and serve food for the family, but eating with the paid servants. Her uncle, a master carpet designer, is delighted when the narrator shows interest, talent, eagerness and skill at designing carpets. He allows her to learn from and work with him at home, even knotting a carpet herself. During the same time her aunt pressures the narrator to accept a temporary 90 day “marriage” to a carpet customer for financial benefit to the family, even though the aunt expects her to still continue working for the household. As the narrator realizes how uncertain her future is, she looks for ways to gain independence for herself and her mother. How she sets this as her goal at a time when the lives of women were constricted presents many challenges.
I knew little about the time period in which this novel is set, and got drawn in by the characters and the history. Although the story is fiction, the author spent nine years working on her book, doing extensive research on Iran and its history. She writes about this process in a note at the end of the book that enhances the reader’s experience. Students looking for a book to read for their World Literature class will find this meets both the need to read a book by an author born in a non-English speaking country and an engaging story.
Review by Ellie Goldstein Erickson