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The Septembers of Shiraz: A Novel (P.S.) by…

The Septembers of Shiraz: A Novel (P.S.) (original 2007; edition 2008)

by Dalia Sofer

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7635412,153 (3.86)154
Title:The Septembers of Shiraz: A Novel (P.S.)
Authors:Dalia Sofer
Info:Harper Perennial (2008), Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Tags:NYT Most Notable(2007), Orange Prize Nominee

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The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer (2007)



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Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
Dalia Sofer's, "The Septembers of Shiraz" was the first book I read by this author. I selected the text based upon my interest in Middle East history. This story took place at a time when just about everyone in the country of Iran seemed to have a common enemy--The Monarchy, and they wanted it overthrown--this was accomplished with the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

Unfortunately for Iranians, they soon realized that after the overthrow of their common enemy(ies), Prime Minister Mossaddegh and The Shah, coupled with the return of Ayatollah Khomeini, that the new regime was much worse than what the citizenry had fought for and enivisioned for themselves. This realization was eloquently captured by the author when one of her characters stated the following, "We wanted to put an end to the monarchy [SIC]. We thought we were cheering for democracy. So many different groups marched together--the Communists, the Labor Party, the Party of the Masses, you name it. Add to that the religious fundamentalists. What brought us together was our hatred for the shah [SIC]. But there wasn't much else to keep us together. In the end, we unleashed a monster" (pp. 124-125), and many of them remained attached to it, typically leading people to prison, torture, and sometimes death..

Reasons for imprisonment and execution were as follows: unknown reason, communist party (Tudeh) member, being Jewish, being Baha'i, "the sha's [SIC] friends, generals, henchmen; anyone who was not liked was or [Sic] no longer fit in" (pp. 10-11). The author communicated that there existed a religion hierarchy beneath Islam: Baha'i was lower, or considered worse than, Judaism. Newly illegal acts included "drinking alcohol...along with singing, listening to music, going out with uncovered hair..." (pg. 25). Any indications of liking or not disliking The Shah most likely resulted in a worsened punishment and/or arrest of family members and friends

Prison flattened the socioeconomic status of all members of society. The same thing seemed to be occuring outside the prison as well. In fact, anyone of means was being viewed as not having earned their money. The less wealthy suddenly had a new power to assert and believed that someone else's money belonged to them. This paradigm was being indoctrinated throughout the country.

Indoctrination took more than one form, and it was aggressively taught, including at the elementary school level. Children were asked, hypothetically, if they would volunteer to be child soldiers for "the cause," and those that said they would were rewarded with relief from homework. The children did not really understand what it was that they were volunteering to do. The author revealed that children were being used to clear landmines so the adult soldiers could focus on actual combat.

Dalia Sofer wanted the reader to understand that the fear of death occurred on a quotidian basis. She communicated this aspect very well. The author also wanted the reader to either understand and/or visualize the following:
--Calmness of life prior to The Revolution;
--Constant finger pointing, mistrust, lies, and set-ups;
--Massive reversal of fortune;
--Revenge and brutality;
--Corruption; and,
--Devaluing of women and children.

Ms. Sofer accomplished her goals and easily established that there was a higher level of happiness and predictability in one's life prior to The Revolution. I thought that she could have done more to explain the deep religious fervor that people used as reasoning for the new, extremely conservative laws. I appreciated that she provided information about her family's escape from Iran, to include her actions and thoughts on the morning of departure. She expressed, "This is how I imagined my life catalogued and summed up" (pg. 3, Epilogue). It made me wonder, how would my life would be summarized and viewed.

Sofer's book maintained a consistent level of predictability; at times the characters could have been placed in any other story and viewed the same way as in this book. Overall, the book was beautifully written with just the right amount of intensity that made the book a page-turner. ( )
  LibStre | Feb 14, 2014 |
What a wonderful book! I know very little of the revolution in Iran, but my heart breaks for everyone in this story. Obviously, as others have outlined, the story is about a Jewish family caught in the violence of the revolution. But it is about so much more than that as well. Although the Amin family is the center of the story and Isaac's torture is heartbreaking,even peripheral characters are memorable: the young boy (who we never even see) running in the prison where is father is the torturer, the guard Hossein who fulfills his position as guard yet maintains a shread of compassion, the young friends of Isaac's daughter who are living a childhood surrounded by forces well beyond their control or understanding.

This book will remain with me. It clearly portrays that nothing is simple--tradition, politics, family ties, religion, wealth and poverty all intermingle. I would highly recommend this book. Not only does it provide one viewpoint of a very tumultuous time, it provides a glimpse into the background for much of what is happening in the Middle East today. Regardless of what political stand one takes on the Middle East situation, families are being torn apart on all sides and for all of us, home is a very special place. ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 17, 2013 |
A beautifully written story filled with tension, the book covers about a year in the lives of the Amin family; had it been twice as long, I would have been happy to read another year. An extremely impressive first novel. ( )
  JennyArch | Apr 3, 2013 |
considering the serious subject this was an easy book to read. while giving details on torture methods it was not gruesome. maybe that left the reader wanting more depth, but if it would be more graphic, it may be too hard to read. overall the characters was believable and the story had a good flow. switching the view from one character to the next kept me interested. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Jul 7, 2012 |
In 1981 in Tehran, after the fall of the Shah, Isaac Amin, a Jewish rare gem dealer, is arrested, accused of being a spy. He isn’t really surprised at this turn of events because although the idea of his being a spy is ludicrous, he has watched as friends and other businessmen have disappeared, probably imprisoned or executed by the revolutionary Guard. All of these individuals have one thing in common: they lived well during the reign of the Shah.

Dalia Sofer’s debut novel, written in hauntingly beautiful prose, explores the effects of the Iranian Revolution on the general population and particularly, on one family. It is told through the view points of Amin, his wife Farnaz, his nine year old daughter Sharin and his teenage son, Parviz, who is going to school in New York. She very even-handedly articulates both sides and allows the reader to appreciate the revolution for what it was and why it was important to both sides. Additionally, by using multiple viewpoints, it was easy to observe the effects on all involved. When Isaac describes his experiences in prison, as horrifying as torture is, Sofer tempers it so that the reader knows exactly what is happening without dwelling on the act itself. It’s the only thing that makes that part readable and different from other books that include descriptions of torture.

As the family considers leaving the country they love, but don’t feel safe in anymore, feelings of heartbreak overwhelm.

Isaac thinks of the cities ahead of him---Ankara, Istanbul, Geneva, New York---and of the cities behind him---Tehran, where his home stands, empty now of life; Ramsar by the Caspian, its air filled with fog; Isfahan, with its domes of blue; Yazd, where brick alleys shelter its inhabitants from the daytime heat and nighttime freeze of the desert, and where the undying flame of Zoroastrians burns in a small urn of oil; and his beloved Shiraz, the city of his youthful summers, where he discovered both poetry and Farnaz, and where, along the mausoleums of the medieval poets Hafez and Sa’di, he recited verses, finding his future in them.” (Page 336)

We follow this family through a year filled with dismay and terror, ending with a dangerous flight to freedom and I, for one, was impressed with this strong debut. Highly recommended. ( )
7 vote brenzi | Jul 6, 2012 |
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For my parents, Simon and Farah,
my brothers, Joseph and Alfred,
and my sister, Orly
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When Isaac Amin sees two men with rifles walk into his office at half past noon on a warm autumn day in Tehran, his first thought is that he won't be able to join his wife and daughter for lunch, as promised.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061130419, Paperback)

In the aftermath of the Iranian revolution, rare-gem dealer Isaac Amin is arrested, wrongly accused of being a spy. Terrified by his disappearance, his family must reconcile a new world of cruelty and chaos with the collapse of everything they have known. As Isaac navigates the terrors of prison, and his wife feverishly searches for him, his children struggle with the realization that their family may soon be forced to embark on a journey of incalculable danger.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:49 -0400)

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Their serene villa life devastated by a wrongful imprisonment, the wife and children of Tehran gentleman Isaac Amin face potential betrayals within their own household and eventually plan a dangerous escape.

(summary from another edition)

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