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The Age of Orphans by Laleh Khadivi
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The Age of Orphans

by Laleh Khadivi

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Age of Orphans by Laleh Khadivi is an exceptional work of literature. The reader is taken back to 1920s, and is introduced to the Kurdish culture where a routine coming of age ritual changes the lives of many, when the group is intercepted by the Shah of Iran's army. The book will take the readers through a deep and rather emotional look at the life of a Kurdish boy, who is renamed Reza after he is conscripted into the Shah's army. Khadivi takes the reader through a beautifully written, yet heartbreaking story. The Age of Orphans is an exceptionally deep, complex, and at times rather graphic book, which will keep the reader intrigued until the end. ( )
  knittingmomof3 | May 23, 2012 |
I found this a compelling book to read. The poetic language beautifully evokes vivid images of the Persian landscape through the eyes of a young boy. Soon after his initiation into manhood in his mountain tribe, he goes off to war against the Shah's army, with his father and uncles and cousins in a bid for an independent Kurdish nation. He is the only survivor and is taken in as a pet by the senior army officer, alternately cared for and abused. He is conscripted into the army and works to loose his Kurdish origins by commiting atrocities to prove his loyalty to the shah. He is elevated at a young age to captain and tested again as he is sent to command the land of his birth. Slowly his kurdish roots re-emerge. Despite the harrowing events for which this book has been criticised, I read this tale feeling compassion for Reza and said incidents were not described in gruesome detail but with a deft hand for language. ( )
  HelenBaker | Mar 14, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Part of the Publishers Weekly review reads, "Ironic, beautifully written, brutal and ugly" and I think that captures the book to a T. Although this book was a quick and absorbing read, it was also a challenge to get through all the violence. The brutality and cowardice of the main character, Reza, was astounding to me, but I also had feelings of sympathy towards him because it would have taken a miracle for him to be anything different when one takes into account his tragic upbringing. I liked the exposure to a small segment of the complicated Kurdish history and would be interested to read the subsequent books in this trilogy. ( )
  aliciamay | Jan 16, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I need to get some things out of the way before getting into the story, so let me start with some information you might want to know before you decide to read this. There are some disturbing images and passages in this book—rough language, brutal treatment and death, detailed sexual descriptions and rape. So, if you don’t want to read about them, avoid this book.

Now, let’s talk about the story and its construction. The central character is an unnamed boy. He is the only child of Kurdish parents and the cousin to many in his village in the mountains of the spot on the map that is becoming the new Iran. His male relatives initiate him into manhood and the tribe, and in less than a year, he along with the other men of his village enter battle against the soldiers of the new Iran. All, save he, are slaughtered.

He is made a conscript of the shah’s army and at first is treated as the captain’s pet—both doted upon and abused. When he is old enough, he becomes an army cadet and is given the Iranian name, Reza Pejman Khourdi. Throughout his time in the camp, he learns to be a soldier and to hate the Kurdish blood that courses within him and others. Through atrocious actions against his fellow Kurds, he is suggested for further military training in Tehran. While there he marries an educated Tehrani woman and when his training is complete, he is sent back to the Kurdish area to “discipline his own.” His wife soon despises him and his Kurdish blood especially since she believes that he is softening in his treatment of the people there. For the rest of their story, you will have to read the book—I don’t want to provide any more spoilers.

As for my feelings of this book, hmmm, that’s a bit complicated. The story is not a happy one. It’s of a boy losing all that he has known and loved and growing to hate his tribe and himself. It’s a story of war and all the atrocious things that accompany it—how a human being turns against others to further themselves, to survive. But, the language of this book is truly beautiful. It is poetic with beautiful imagery—birds and their flight are used throughout. Yet, at the same time it is harsh, stark and upsetting. So, while normally I would say that the story was one that I couldn’t tolerate because of its darkness and brutal images, I found myself drawn to the man and his life and hoping that he could somehow emerge from the hell he endured. ( )
1 vote xuesheng | Oct 16, 2010 |
A graphic and disturbing novel. Normally I would put a book like this down, but it was so well written I just had to keep on reading. I can't wait to read the rest of this trilogy! ( )
  rachelprz | Sep 9, 2010 |
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"Deep in the Zagros Mountains of western Persia, a young Kurdish boy is called to fight. Though he is still very much a boy - in love with his Maman, fascinated by birds, and dutiful to his stern and powerful Baba - he feigns bravery and follows his tribe into a massacre at the hands of the armies of the shah. As the only survivor, the boy is adopted by the same soldiers who killed his father and uncles, and he is told that he is no longer a Kurd but a soldier for the newly minted nation of Iran. The orphan is given a name, Reza Khourdi, as well as an arbitrary age and orders to forget his Kurdish identity at all costs."."The Age of orphans follows Reza through his meteoric rise in rank, his marriage to an educated Tehrani woman, and his eventual deployment as a captain back to the Zagros Mountains, where the ever-defiant Kurds are demanding a nation of their own. As a representative of the shah, Reza must suppress the revolts and uprisings of the local Kurdish tribes - the people he has begun to recognize as his own. Here, his carefully crafted persona begins to crack." "The story of Reza Khourdi is that of the twentieth-century everyman at the crossroads of history: Cast out of the clan in the name of nation, progress, and modernity, he is left yearning for impossible dreams of love, land, and home."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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