March 7, 2010

Book Review on The Blood Of Flowers written by Anita Amirrezvani

"In 17th-century Persia, a 14-year-old woman believes she will be married within the year. But when her beloved father dies, she and her mother find themselves alone and without a dowry. With nowhere else to go, they are forced to sell the brilliant turquoise rug the young woman has woven to pay for their journey to Isfahan, where they will work as servants for her uncle, a rich rug designer in the court of the legendary Shah Abbas the Great. Despite her lowly station, the young woman blossoms as a brilliant designer of carpets, a rarity in a craft dominated by men. But while her talent flourishes, her prospects for a happy marriage grow dim. Forced into a secret marriage to a wealthy man, the young woman finds herself faced with a daunting decision: forsake her own dignity, or risk everything she has in an effort to create a new life."
The bright dainty cover of the novel-The Blood of Fire captivated me to read it and after reading the novel my stream of thoughts was literally hijacked to a distant land where the readers will encounter with the struggle of a woman in the patriarchal society. Every part of the novel will force to rendezvous with the strange orthodox Iranian culture, the struggle for existence, the struggle between the girlhood and the womanhood and the search for an identity of a young lass.

The novel simply build up on the three phases life of the unnamed narrator, her transition from country bumpkin to city dweller, from immature girl to married woman, and from traditional rug knotter to sophisticated carpet designer. The three phases story-First the innocent adolescence where the flower blooms with variegated hues and dreams which paves the path to womanhood. Then the sudden encounter with the unexpected conjugal life and a shattering dream coerced to strive for existence and lastly the establishment of her Identity. It has all the flavour of the folklore of Persian culture too, as throughout the novel the folklore run parallely with the story of the novel and it also perfectly blends the essence of the historical backdrop of 17th century Iran and the strokes of the fairytale and the feminist treatise in a delightful and captive manner. It is also a story of two soul friends, whose destiny intertwined in such a way that their one man fate led them to a dual rivalry. A novel, which can be considered as an example of the feminine mystique which is very much relevant to middle-class and upper-class women, as many poor and working-class women worked outside the home out of necessity. Though the elaborate description of the nuptial outskirts makes the cadence of the novel frowned. The American brought up and of Iranian origin writer has given a well narrated overview of the Iranian culture and at the same time made the carpet weaving the symbol of the journey of a woman. The very much feminist outlook of weaving reminds us of the Greek Mythology and Virginia Woolf’s weaving symbolism. Through all of her struggles, impassioned decisions and bold demonstrations of her independence, the young woman (The narrator) has one constant escape in her life: the art

Author's Profile
Anita Amirrezvani
Anita Amirrezvani was born on 13th November, 1961 in Tehran, Iran. She was only two when her parents got separated. She was raised by her mother in San Francisco. When she was thirteen, she began going to Iran on her own and spending time with her  father’s side of the family. Her father took her on a trip to Isfahan when she was fourteen, even though he was busy building his business and didn’t have much time for leisure. Because she loved art and architecture, he agreed
to take her for two days-" I remember being mesmerized by the great square of Isfahan and by the painted plasterwork on the staircase of our hotel, a former caravansary."
She attended for two and a half years at Vassar College and then transferred to the University of California at Berkeley, where she majored in English.
She has been a writer and editor all her life. Before selling her novel, she worked for ten years as a dance critic and arts writer at two newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as an arts publicist.
Her novel took her about five years to get to the end of the first draft, and she didn’t tell anyone that she was working on a novel until then. As part of her research, she spent a lot of time reading about Iranian history and literature in university library stacks. When the writer was fourteen years
old, her father let her choose a carpet for herself, and the old and beautiful rug she selected, led her to imagine the lives of the people who created it. Out of that experience came The Blood of Flowers. It took nine years to complete the novel.

she is compelled to create. "It was as if I was living within the surface of the carpet myself, surrounded by its soothing colours and its images of eternal tranquillity. Lost in its beauties, I forgot the misery around me."

In the first phase of her life the sudden death of her father made her to step and work in the patriarchal society where it was quite dubious that a woman can work in a shop.-“The men looked surprised to see a woman in the shop...”(P: 60)She started her work, the work to weave carpets. The carpet is actually the little world for her...As all the designs she weaves or she sees reminds her the picturesque scenario of the corners of the world she visits..In her world everything is only related to the art of weaving .When she started learning writing from Naheed ,only one friend she had, she said-“Writing is just like making rugs “and gave a wonderful metaphoric explanation of this statement-“Words are made letter by letter, in the same way that rugs are formed knot to knot, If you combine different letters, they make different words, and the same is true when you combine colours to make different patterns…”(P:68)…Being a girl from small village experience and her imaginative power made her more literate than the other educated people. Naheed’s character is quite interesting bold, curious and she is the medium who encountered the narrator to the world of intrigue.
Throughout the novel Marriage had played the key role or rather we could say that the foundation of the story had been based on marriage. In the 17th century Iranian culture, law agrees to multiple marriages -

1. Legal Marriage-To get legally married lump sum money should be accumulated by the bride’s family for Dowry.
2. Sigah-Secret Marriage or a Contract Marriage, where the husband will pay money to the bride’s family in each contract.
Multiple marriages are legal for the male members till they don’t get the womb to carry their heir.

In the first phase of the story Marriage played a different role. It charmed two hearts with an illusive dream. For the narrator to get married was rather to get a home of her own (P: 103).Naheed’s dream and the definition of marriage was –“Marry a handsome young man and have plenty of sons.”(P: 89).

The second phase of the story turned radically to a pathetic condition when the narrator suddenly forced to a secret marriage what was called in Iran the Sigah. Behind this marriage, was hidden a scoffing incident. The protagonist was bound to accept this marriage because she had spoiled an expensive rug of her uncle and to repay the expense of the rug she had to commit the sigah. Throughout this contract marriage, the narrator kept on struggling to ensconce her marriage and get the honour of the legal wife. The innocent country yokel turned herself into a siren only with a hope to get a home of her own and a proper identity and it is only possible if she bore his child(P:174).

But destiny wrote a different story for her. In the third phase of the story, all her dreams and love for her husband had been shattered down when Naheed, her best friend got legally married with her husband. But this sudden upheaval encountered her with her inner self, with the woman who had the power to fight against the society, who wanted her own identity. She broke the sigah which is absolutely astounding in that society(P:279).Her bolted stride made her homeless, starving but she kept on fighting with her destiny and the cruel society .But at the end she was able to write her own fate and her carpet designing talent was flourished in to a pile of fortune. She was able to become economically independent, mentally independent. Has enough money to pay the dowry for a legal marriage.

Though the end has the fairy tale endings-Everybody lives happily ever after, it is at the same time very touchy stories which will involve you till end and make you feel as the part of the story. Modernity doesn’t descry time. It dwells inside our mind, inside us.

Published in the Deja Vu magazine.


Raka said...

Well written..mainly i liked the way u attached the author's profile...

Silence Sings said...

Thanks Raka...

Gouri Guha said...

A nice review which makes me think of reading this book. On my next visit to my book store will look for it.

Your review is really well-written creating an interest in the reader.

This is another nice place of yours.

Kamalika said...

Thanks Gouridi, for visiting my blog and leaving the nice comment...the book is really nice..when i started reading it I just finished it in a day...couldn't able stop half way...

LindyLouMac said...

Hi Kamalika, I found my way here because you posted this review over at Book Reviews where I also commented. Great review, I must look for this book in Europe.
I like your blog and have enjoyed having a browse around, hope to welcome you to my blogs sometime.