"All our labors were in service of beauty, but sometimes it seemed as if every thread in a carpet had been dipped in the blood of flowers." (p.351)
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Title: The Blood of Flowers
Author: Anita Amirrezvani
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
You can find the author's website here. The book was also long-listed for the 2008 Orange Prize.
First sentence: First there wasn't and then there was.
Blood of Flowers is set in 17th century Iran, and describes the journey of a young woman and her mother from a small village to the large Persian city of Isfahan. The pair are forced to migrate to Isfahan after the death of the girl's father leaves them without a dowry for her marriage. They seek out shelter and assistance in the home of a wealthy uncle. The uncle, Gostaham, is a master rug designer and colorist for Shah Abbas. Although his wife Gordiyeh treats the mother and daughter as servants, Gostaham sees a natural rug-making talent in the young girl, and begins a personal tutelage that is usually only reserved for boys.
The fourteen-year-old girl, who is never named in the novel, is a headstrong individual who tends to make rash decisions that often lead to disastrous results. One such decision puts her in a position in which she is forced to accept a sigheh--temporary marriage--to a wealthy son of a horse trader. Throughout the story, she struggles through a personal journey on many levels: arriving in an unknown city, honing her skills as a rugmaker, but most importantly, growing into a greater maturity level while staying true to her inner spirit.
The tradition of rug-making is explored in-depth, and is a delight to read about; Amirrezvani describes this rich tradition in a beautiful, insightful prose. Folktales are interspersed throughout the narrative in a style reminiscent of Arabian Nights, paying homage to Iran's rich oral tradition. One of my favorite aspects of the book is the description of the Isfahan. All of my senses were awakened with the lush descriptions of the city's great square--The Image of the World--and the adjacent bazaar filled with thousands of vendors selling food, spices, carpets, wool, shoes, leather, in a cacophony of food, culture, and entertainment.
Historical fiction is a wide, varied genre, and has its fill of not-so-great books. Blood of Flowers is definitely one of the more original stories in this genre that I have read in a while. This story is about a girl in a male-dominated culture wishing for more independence, as well as a rich description of the arts-centered Persian culture and traditions of the 17th century. The paperback edition includes a conversation with the author, where she hints at another novel exploring Iranian history. I am eagerly looking forward to her next publication! I also greatly appreciated her recommended reading appendix. I love when books include these lists, and while I have read a few on the list, and already have a few mentioned on my TBR list, there were enough new-to-me titles named to get this book lover's heart racing.
More quotes from the novel can be found in my last Sunday Salon post here.
Blood of Flowers Giveaway
The publisher was kind enough to include an extra copy of the book along with my review copy, so I will be giving away a copy to one lucky reader! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post. The drawing will remain open until Friday, June 6th, at 5pm EST. You can receive an extra entry--and double your chances of winning-by linking to this giveaway on your blog. Just leave a link in the comment section. Sorry to those outside North America, but this contest is only open to those in the United States and Canada.