|Septembers of Shiraz, The
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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 tedium and terrors of prison, forging tenuous trusts, his wife feverishly searches for him, suspecting, all the while, that their once-trusted housekeeper has turned on them and is now acting as an informer. And as his daughter, in a childlike attempt to stop the wave of baseless arrests, engages in illicit activities, his son, sent to New York before the rise of the Ayatollahs, struggles to find happiness even as he realizes that his family may soon be forced to embark on a journey of incalculable danger.
A page-turning literary debut, The Septembers of Shiraz simmers with questions of identity, alienation, and love, not simply for a spouse or a child, but for all the intangible sights and smells of the place we call home.
- "no whiteness lost is so white as the memory of whiteness"
The story of the painful reckoning after the islamic revolution in Iran. A prosperous Jewish Iranian diamond merchant is arrested and tortured for his alleged links to Zionists. The main thing that angers his captors is that he lived a comfortable life while many in the country suffered under the previous regime. The readers are also provided information about how the events impact his wife, daughter and son. As their father disappears and as they become powerless. ...more info
- Wonderful, horrifying, and gripping
This book grabbed me with its emotional honesty and penchant for describing horrific events without pandering to shock value that is common today. I normally read non-fiction. I was initially turned off by the title because I was concerned that it was a cheap ploy on the words September and Shiraz (not knowing that Shiraz was actually a place, not a reference to the popular class of wine); additionally the size of the font and number of chapters led me to wonder whether I really was, in essence, selecting a pulp novel (not a choice I would normally make). However, I became interested in the characters immediately, and remained interested in them throughout the entire book. I do have a lingering doubt as to how a 9 year old could pull off some of the derring-do that Shirin was able to accomplish without being caught; it almost seems like an adult author was identifying with that character and has imbued certain attributes of an older person's recollection on that character's personality and abilities; a recollection that, perhaps, has grown rosier over time (Note: I have an 11 year old daughter who wouldn't have been able to do what Shirin did; perhaps one grows up earlier in other countries). I am not from the Middle East, nor am I Jewish. The book touched me in such a way that I still think about each of the members of the Amin family, as if I had known them personally. I highly recommend this book, and await, with high anticipation, Sofer's next literary effort. ...more info
- Compelling and personal tale, but not very well-written
The Septembers of Shiraz is a 3 1/2 star book that I would have upgraded to 4 stars if immediately after finishing it I hadn't started reading Ariel Sabar's My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq. Both books are based on the personal stories of the authors' fathers, each of whom ended up emmigrating from the Middle East with his family as a result of religious and cultural persecution. This book is written as a novel, and Sabar's is non-fiction, but the greatest dissimilarity is in the quality of the writing. And that is where "The Septembers of Shiraz" comes up short.
This book, about an Iranian Jewish family during the cultural revolution which brought the Ayatollah Khomeini and his Islamic fundamentalists to power, is divided into the points of view of the four family members: Isaac Amin, a wealthy jeweler, his wife, Farnaz, their daughter Shirin, and their son, Parviz. Isaac is jailed on charges of being a Zionist and his wife and daughter must try to cope in a Tehran in which the lower classes have power for the first time in their lives. Parviz, in the weakest of the tales, is studying at university in New York and living with a family of Hasidic Jews.
You can tell on reading the book that the tale is deeply personal to the author and one which she researched rigorously, from the conditions in Iranian prisons to what life was like for ordinary people during the revolution. It's also one that needs to be told. If you know nothing about the Islamic revolution in Iran, the book is likely to be compelling. But chapters don't so much end as they just stop abruptly, sections are written in the wrong tense, and for these and other reasons I can't quite put my finger on, I found myself picking the book up and putting it down again a few pages later, whereas I read over half of Safar's book in one sitting.
Sofer can perhaps be forgiven some of the clunky writing in that English is not her first language. But then it isn't Khaled Hosseini's first language either, and both The Kite Runner and One Thousand Splendid Suns are gorgeously written. If you want to learn about what was lost in the cultural revolution in Iran and read just one book about it, even Reading Lolita in Tehran, which makes what was lost in the revolution more poignant still, would be a better choice. Sofer has made a good first effort and one which is worth reading, just with lower expectations that those which the other reviews here might give you. Perhaps I'm less moved by the book than I ought to be because while Sofer makes you feel the pain of the Amin family and what they have lost, she never really gives you a sense of greater context. But I just finished the book today and it's already starting to slip away in the face of a tale (Safar's) that is full of more detail, more history and that broader context and is, somehow, more moving.
- Fans of the Kite Runner Rejoice!
Dalia Sofer's debut novel about a Jewish Iranian jailed simply for his wealth and suspected contacts is just as appealing as The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Journey into Iran after the Revolution in the early 1980s and experience what yet another people are forced to endure: false imprisonment, physical and mental abuse, deceptions, etc. While Isaac is in jail, he worries that his wife and young daughter may soon join him, if they haven't already.
Everyone in this stunning debut is under suspicion and there is nobody to trust; not even lifelong friends or confidantes. This page turner will keep you on the edge of your seat and give you insight into a situation that you only *thought* you knew about. ...more info
- Very humane approach to an inhumane environment
I enjoyed reading Dalia Sofer's book and at times I found that I simply could not put it down. It is interesting to read the story from the point of view of an upper middle class fairly ASSIMILATED Jews from Iran.
Dalia portrayal of all her characters was warm and humane without idealizing any of them. She was kind to the Moslem Iranian revolutionaries, the lower classes, as well as to the clue-less antagonists and the welcoming yet "different" Hasidim of Brooklyn.
Her treatment of all involved was humane. Good first book....more info
- A most incredible debut
I have rarely read a debut novel as polished and moving as this one. Each of the characters -- from main characters to secondary ones -- is a three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood person who rings true.
The plot, taking place in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution, focuses on the Amin family: Isaac, a rare-gem dealer who is forced to navigate the terrors of an indifferent and cruel prison system, his wife Farniz, who must find courage as the world she lives in turns upside down, Shirin, a heart-breaking nine year old girl who struggles to find meaning, and Parvis, the ex-patriot son who lives in the Hassidic Brooklyn neighborhood.
The book has a lot to say about everything that's important: the meaning of love and family, the divisions that religion can cause, the upheavals of misguided revolutions, class struggles, the symbolism of "home", the tenacity needed to move forward, and mostly, what it means to be human in an often inhuman world. And it says it with compassion and understanding.
Along the way, the novel deals movingly with questions of identity, love, home, and really matters in life. Like the gems that Isaac lovingly crafts, some break easily, others shine brightly, and still others stand the test of time.
- A great, poignant story
The story of a jewish man and his family caught in the aftermath of the "departure" of the Shah of Iran in the 1980's. This is the kind of book you can't let go of and you need to keep reading. You feel for the characters as the chapters unfold....more info
- Try to Remember the Kind Of September
Sofer, in her novel ,Septembers of Shiraz, gives a fictionalized account of her family's experiences during the Iranian Revolution. The imprisonment of Isaac Amin for simply being affluent and Jewish causes a chain of upheaval and reprecussions that spin a well to do family out of control.Sofer gives a voice to the Revolutionaries who seek to place blame on those who were in the upper economic strata in the years of the shah's lavish and excessive rule. Sofer is a very descriptive writer and so the imprisonment details are a bit too clear and a bit too repetitive. The plot is rather slow but the truth of the historical post shah era is very effectively evoked. The fact that this story is Sofer's family's story lends credence and depth to the characters and the events. It is a worthwhile read....more info
- Couldn't connect with the characters
I feel like I was reading a different book than the rest of the reviewers. To me, the characters were all distant and hard to connect with, which made it hard for me to feel an investment in their evolutions or futures. The most compelling character and the story I was most interested in was the subplot about the daughter and the files. She was the only character that felt real to me. I would have liked to read more about her, but the rest of the family I could take or leave. Had I not been on a plane when reading it, I probably wouldn't have finished the book, and I finish everything....more info
- Septembers of Shiraz
After reading the review in the New York Times, I decided to pick this up. The review of this debut novel was so good, I had to give it a try. I was not disappointed. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who appreciates a great piece of literature. (Even "middle class housewives in the midwest"...see reviewer below.) ...more info
- A nuanced tale of political and religious repression
This is an excellent first novel. Dalia Sofer tells the story of the Amin family, a wealthy Iranian-Jewish family caught up in the ugly repression that followed the overthrow of the shah, in a quiet, dignified style, with detail building upon detail. Jeweler Isaac Amin is snatched from his home and imprisoned by the Revolutionary Guards, for no other reason than the fact that he is affluent and Jewish. His efforts to convince his captors that he is no Israeli spy and end his Kafkaesque tortures and interrogations are described very convincingly.
Particularly notable are Sofer's efforts to portray the ideology of Amin's captors and their sympathizers and to give them a chance to speak for themselves. She does not countenance political murder, religious repression, or anti-semitism, far from it, and her sympathies are with the oppressed; but she does give her villains a voice. Why are some people the masters and some the servants? Was the Iranian upper class complicit in the repression conducted by the shah's goons before his overthrow? These are some of the questions that she asks and these help give the book considerable nuance.
I would have given this book five stars, but the ending failed to satisfy the emotional build-up of the previous 100 pages. The book seemed to peter out rather than to end in a meaningful way.
- The Septembers of Shiraz
I thought this book was very moving, beautifully written and am looking forward to Dalia Sofer's next novel....more info
- Beautifully written....
Isaac Amin is a rare gem dealer, who is mistakenly accused of being a spy following the Iranian revolution. His family is panicked by his disappearance, while Isaac himself must survive the horrors of an Iranian prison. This novel explores human alienation from home and family, and how we are interconnected as family. Beautifully written and highly recommended! ...more info
- Our resilience is always being tested. A price will be paid if we ignore the signs of unrest in our neighborhoods.
In her first novel, The Septembers of Shiraz, Dalia Sofer has written a page turner.The story is important to all of us who are concerned about extremism worldwide. The Iranian family represented here could be any one of us. Their desire to remain invisible to the forces that were taking over their country and the outcome of their efforts to gain security makes for very good reading with lots to think about....more info
- Fabulous book!
I tore through The Septembers of Shiraz in two days. It is gripping, moving, and perceptive. Although firmly based in the details and culture of Iran, the story is universal in showing how an apolitical but privileged family gets caught in the gears of a horrific totalitarian regime.
A lot of books about political repression focus on a person who has been imprisoned and tortured. Sofer writes about such a prisoner, but she gives equal attention to the wife, son and daughter of the man who has been imprisoned -- showing how they too suffer and cope.
I really recommend this.
I ...more info
- Life turned upside down
Imagine this: you are at the breakfast table, drinking your morning coffee, and there is a knock on the door...armed soldiers waiting to enter your house to search for incriminating items. They ransack your house, steal your valuables....Dalia Sofer writes of a charmed life gone bad in 1980s Iran. The Septembers of Shiraz is a fictionalized memoir, taking place when the author was a child. It is a well written, gripping novel of a Jewish family in Iran. I don't want to reveal any of the details, but it was hard to put down because I kept wanting to see what would happen next. I would love to read a sequel about how the family fares after everything that happens in the book....more info
- The Septembers of Shiraz
Moving and poetic first novel that carries the reader back to Iran in the days after the overthrow of the Shah and the terror that claimed those who benefited from his largesse. Each character was brought to life as layers were pulled away revealing heroic but very human and and fallible individuals. Althought this was from the perspective of a Jewish Family the author did try to represent the disparity between the classes while under the rule of the Shah. Greed and gluttony is acknowledged and even those that benefit from his largesse are uncomfortable with the excessiveness of his rule. I found myself intrigued by the history and swept away with each character and their internal conflicts how to move forward and leave their home. The author does a fine job of introducing a main plot with several subpots rotating around the center of this family crisis. Greed, betrayal, love, and loyalty give dimension to a unique story of a family in crisis. I would have liked to see the plight of the brother woven into the family a little more carefully. Excellent work I highly recommend to anyone....more info
- Sorrow and hope in the hands of a master storyteller
Masterpiece is defined as the superlative work of an artist and no word better describes Dalia Sofer's debut novel. "The Septembers of Shiraz" amazes by its sheer quietness and simplicity, and its impact is powerful for such understated prose.
It's 1981 in Tehran. Isaac Amin, a wealthy jeweler and gemologist, is accused of being a Zionist spy and is arrested by the Revolutionary Guards. Two years prior, the Shah of Iran, long reviled as a puppet of the Western world, had been deposed. The revolution that ousted the shah is now paving the way for fundamentalist Islam and the emergence of the Ayatollah Khomeini. It doesn't matter that Isaac is not a subversive; it is enough that he is Jewish and successful.
Isaac's son, Parviz, is an architectural student in New York. As the chaos in Iran worsens and his father languishes in jail, beaten and tortured, the young man is forced to grow up and fend for himself without his parents' remittances. Along the way, he's befriended by his Jewish landlord from whom Parviz learns some valuable lessons in faith, survival and choices.
Meanwhile, Isaac's wife, Farnaz, desperately searches for her husband. She begins to see firsthand the rapid collapse of her country and realizes that life will never be the same again for anyone of them.
What's of note in Sofer's style is her assured command. From beginning `til end, the novel is orderly, accessible, evocative, and affecting, devoid of the trickery of excessive sentimental narrative. (To see this adapted on film would be a pleasure, especially if helmed by Iran's premier director, the equally understated and talented Majid Majidi.)
In one of Parviz's classes, his professor lectures that..
"A good structure...must have two characteristics: strength and beauty. For a building to be strong, it must accomplish what it was designed to do, and do so efficiently, without an excess of stone, glass, steel. For it to be beautiful, it must reflect its maker's definition of beauty, whatever that definition may be. For only then can it be said that the structure exists honestly."
And that is exactly what Sofer's writing is--strong, beautiful and honest. It's appropriate that the author's name is Sofer, which is Hebrew for `writer', for the label is borne well by this young author. Through Isaac, she has given us an "education in grief," but more importantly, she has given us an education in hope. This is writing from the soul, the best kind there is....more info
- The September of Shiraz
This was a fabulous book. It gives so much information about Iran and the way the people live. This story was concerning the Cultural Revolution of the 1980's. It was amazing to me how the people learned to cope with impossible situations. I highly recommend this book....more info
- Another version of the same story
It's good, but many versions of this story have been told before. If you have never read anything about what happened in Iran during the first years after the revolution, then this book tells you something new. Otherwise, it's just another version of the same story. A big difference though, is that the author has not experienced these things personally, and many things are creations of her imagination, back by research. When you read the same things from someone who has lived them, you can feel the real touch, and therefore get a more realistic picture....more info
- Tender and Luminous
This new novel has a tone of rare refinement throughout. The characters speak carefully, the descriptions are painterly, and the story is poignant. When so many new novels are snarky, hard boiled and vulgar, it is a relief to read a book obviously written by a refined person and very talented novelist. Dalia Sofer gave me insight into the life Iranian Jews must have led before they turned up overnight in my community in the early 1980s. In this beautifully rendered novel, feelings spring from the page: the work-obsessed husband falsely imprisoned, the vain but loving wife, the bewildered and innocent 9 year old daughter, and the 18 year old son, an architecture student cast adrift in Hasidic Brooklyn of all places. The scenes in Brooklyn are well rendered and the Hasidim accurately pictured. I can only assume that the Iranian scenes are equally true to life. There were certain scenes that did not ring true, though. How is it possible on a teeming Hasidic street, where small children watch from front porches and elderly women peer through windows, that a young couple could feel free enough to walk together before they were engaged? Unrealistic! And a pivotal plot device turns on a Hasidic emissary having a forbidden romance while abroad. Again, unrealistic for the very reason that Lubavitch emissaries are always married couples, never single men. [I stand corrected on this point - see comment] An absorbing story, and an inspiring one....more info
- story of our lives
I bought eight copies of this book for all the family members who claim this is the story of our lives. Born in Egypt, we left in 1966 (I was 8). The alienation, the humiliation and the isolation we felt not only in Egypt, but in the lands where we ended up are so clearly expressed in this book that it is if the author had written our story. My mom cried as she read the book twice, and wished she did not have to read the last page. It is heart breaking but true. I am in the process of writing our story, our exodus from Egypt and this is a sister story that justified our feelings and shared memories. Thank you so much for a masterpiece of precision and love. ...more info
- An Amazing debut!
'The Septembers of Shiraz' is an amazing debut novel. Ms. Sofer eloquently depicts the struggle that Jewish jeweler Isaac Amin and his family face after the Iranian revolution of the 1970s. The prose is beautiful and has an underlying sadness to it - obviously due to the subject matter (fear and suffering). The Amin family (Isaac, Farnaz, Shirin and Parviz) are fully developed, realistic and will remain with you long after the story ends. Enjoy the following excerpt:
She peers inside the shop through the glass. Nothing is left but dusty shelves, and a glass filled with turbid tea on the counter, along with a half-eaten sandwich, surrounded now by ants---Shahriar Beheshti's final lunch. "Looks like they got him recently."
'The Septembers of Shiraz'
I believe that Ms. Sofer is an author to watch for in the future. I know I will be looking.
- September Surprise
I wasn't expecting to like this book as much as I did. I could not put it down. What a terrific first novel! It's such a pleasure to read a well written book that immediately draws the reader in and not only captures but captures your attention. I have read a number of books about Iran and even though this one is fiction, it seemed very real. ...more info
- The September of Shiraz
Remarkable reading! How sad that women are so badly abused by the so-called "Holy Men". I wish the women of Iran could stand up for themselves....more info
- Could not resist this book...
I can't believe this is Sofer's first book. Normally, I'm not inclined to buy debut novels - regardless of how good the reviews are. Also, I'm even less likely, generally, to buy hardcover books. I've got plenty of work-related stuff to lug around daily, so paperbacks are simply easier on my back. This book, however, was an exception. Indeed, it is exceptional.
I started reading chapter 1 in the bookstore, thinking I'll skim a few lines before heading over to the "new in paperback" table. But I was hooked. It didn't grab me aggressively like a mystery or action novel. I can't explain it, really. It just made me want to sit down right there in the store and keep reading.
Indeed, the subject is compelling and the book does begin with a dramatic event. But Sofer's prose is so eloquent - it makes you want to keep reading simply for the joy of reading, as well as to find out what happens.
As for my dilemma - whether to buy or not to buy? Well, there were no comfortable places to sit in the bookstore, so I took the plunge and bought it. I deliberately read it slowly to maximize the pleasure from my investment. Even so, I'll probably re-read it this weekend....more info
- The Septembers of Shiraz
My favorite book of 2008 was "People of the Book" penned by Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks. I thought I would be hard-pressed to find a book as beautiful, until I absorbed "The Septembers of Shiraz" by Dalia Sofer, last month. "Septembers" is a beautiful novel, set in the modern era. I guarantee you will see Iran in a different light after reading this moving story of fought-for freedom and re-invention.
- Not a read for Debbie Downer
I thought this book was beautifully and very vividly written. I love getting insight into other cultures and trying to relate to people that at first glance may seem so different than me. I would absolutely recommend this book and I look forward to future works by this author--however if you're looking for something "light" or uplifting.....this is not the book for you. Buy it, but put it aside and read it when you can handle it because the Iran described is a rough, unfair, misogynistic and frustrating place. ...more info
- Another book on Irn? Yes, but "The Septembers of Shiraz" is a must-read.
"The Septembers of Shiraz" kept me on the edge of my seat. This is an "impossible to put down" book, well written and full of painful personal as well as political insights. Immerse yourself in this one....more info
- A World In Chaos
Dalia Sofer has written a poignant portrait of an Iranian family coping with the onslaught of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. We see the upheaval of a seemingly peaceful life through the eyes a little girl, a father thrown into prison, a teenage son who is dealing with the strangeness of his own new life in America, and the mother/wife who must care for her daughter, wonder about husband, and survive in a world very different then the one she had known all her life.
Sofer refrains from painting all Iranians as evil doers. Even in prison a guard risks his life to help others.
This is an important book which helps us understand a nation at the center of our world....more info
- Learning and re-learning life's values
The Septembers of ShirazSetting her novel in the very troubling times in Iran from the overthow of the Shah's reign and the struggle for power between communist factions and the fundamentlist Muslims, Dalia Sofia has successfully created a reign of terror and uncertainty among 'the rich and upwardly-mobile Iranians' who worked hard and prospered under the Shah's reign. The Jewish family of Isaac Amin is one of these. The suffering and fear that each member of the family experiences bring each of them to a realization of where life's values are found - what they originally had and lost in the busy-ness of accumulating wealth and comfort. The story depicts the sinister character of evil in a fundamentalist regime where a distorted image of religious fervour annihilates all goodness. ...more info
- I enjoyed Dalia Sofer's debut; try 'In the Country of Men' next
I enjoyed Dalia Sofer's debut novel, though I'm having a bit of a difficult time aligning my reading experience with the notable NYT book review where they comment "it's impossible to predict whether Sofer's novel will become a classic, but it certainly stands a chance." That's quite a statement.
The tale is loosely based on Ms. Sofer's own experiences of a Jewish Persian upbringing. That Ms. Sofer's own father, Simon, was also imprisoned in the early days of the Islamic Republic of Iran surely brings added resonance to the novel. It's not hard to see Dalia Sofer as Shirin, daughter of the book's protagonist, Issac Amin. Her work 'lifts the veil' (as reviewers have deftly said about it) on what things were like in Iran circa 1979 - 1982. [Sofer and her family fled Iran when she was 10. She was born in 1972.]
A similar work to try out is Hisham Matar's excellent In the Country of Men. Replace Iran with Libya, but the idea's the same: a quasi-autobiographical work by a talented debut novelist who, as a child, watched a beloved father be snatched up and imprisoned by the new regime....more info