Reviews

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, by Shokoofeh Azar

emka918's review against another edition

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emotional hopeful reflective tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.75

fclancy93's review against another edition

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challenging dark reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.5

theworldtoread's review against another edition

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informative mysterious reflective sad slow-paced

5.0

b26's review

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challenging emotional mysterious reflective slow-paced

3.5

archytas's review against another edition

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emotional slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? N/A

2.0

This is a rage-fuelled book. It is ambitious in scope, utilising Persian literary/storytelling techniques in a magical realist way. At worst, it reads as a jagged mish mash of the two styles - veering between the immersion in a fantasy world, and the use of magic to sharpen the social analysis/realism. At its best - for me easily the chapter on political prisoners returning to drown Khomeini's house in tears and the book burnings - it hits very hard and gorgeously all at once: "It took three days and nights of diligent, obsessive cleaning before the puddles of tears were all mopped up from the recesses of the house on Rahbari Dead-end off Jamaran Street.He continued to find large puddles in strange places, however, into which he would stick the tip of his right little finger, taste it, and yell out in anger and fear, until 10:20 on the night of June 3, when Khomeini died. Once, when brushing his hand over the mantle in search of his glasses, he found it drenched in tears. He shrieked so loudly that for three days he couldn’t talk for the sore throat it had given him". With these exceptions though, this lacked the deftness that is needed to make the style work, especially the elements that move rapidly through settings.
The deftness is also missed in the depiction and analysis of the fight for democracy and the revolution in Iran, and the Iran-Iraq war. Azar's depiction of the war- including  explicit characterisation er narrator - is of a war of Khomeini's making, used to dupe gullible young men into dying pointlessly. A couple of characters also characterise the revolution of 1979 as an "Arab invasion" and there is an at times uncomfortable juxtaposition of Persian and Arab cultures, along with Zoroastrian heroes and (fundamentalist) Muslim villains.  There's no question about the accuracy of the crimes depicted here, but there is little space for the intellectual tumult that so many others depict in this period, nor is there any exploration of the tyranny of the Shah and the Pahlavi, or of the role of Iraq in invading or world powers in arms sales. Outside of the immediate circle of protagonists, the masses are often referred to or shown as stupid and mindless, contrasting with the intense mythologised life of the intellectuals at the centre of the story. There is so much amazing literature and non-fiction out of Iran - from the Persian traditions that Azar is paying homage to, mid-century writers and thinkers from nationalists to poets and contemporary writers including Ebrahim Golestan, Shahriar Mandanipour, Shirin Ebadi, Marjane Satrapi - that give fuller views of this complex, wondrous culture and it's current plight, that in the end I would find it hard to recommend this one.

peregrrine's review against another edition

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4.25

GOOD GOOD AWESOME

sarahreadsaverylot's review against another edition

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4.0

Magical realism on par with 100 Years of Solitude.

andantell's review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional informative sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

alodiaga's review against another edition

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4.0

Historical fiction with a touch of magical realism? Sold.

This book is... a lot. The writing style is very, very fast-paced. It's probably a work in translation though. It's pretty confusing to tell who is talking with whom, who is related to whom in what way, etc. And the story was supposed to be told from a 13 years old girl point of view (her name is Bahar), and at times it felt really odd because it didn't felt like I was in a 13 years old girl state of mind, even though she was a ghost. Maybe it implies that ghosts have more wisdom than humans? I don't know. It's a good book, of course, but I still want to feel like it's 'real' and I can experience the narrator's experience.

I love the magical elements thrown everywhere in this book. Every single chapter felt so different, it felt like I was looking at very different world every single time. It's fantastic, really. But again, I'm not quite sure how I will put it. Everything was told by Bahar, and she seemed to be moving from one place to another quickly. I know I'm no ghost, but again, I can't seem to put myself in the experience. If the narrator was not a character in a book, I don't mind him/her telling the story from one place to another seamlessly, she is a character in this book. I can't imagine how she would quickly move from Razan to Tehran and somehow got herself into the woods, etc. If the narrator was, for example, a person, we could go into his/her journey through train rides, flights, or walking. But since she's a ghost... I don't know how ghosts move from one place to another!

Overall, a very interesting read. Truly happy for Shokoofeh who could finally write without censorship as she's not living in Iran anymore. Also to the brave anonymous translator for translating the work into English. It's a bit depressing to see this kind of oppressive regimes has been happening throughout the world and people whose only fault was having different political and religious views was caught, tortured, and made disappear/killed in the end. Such a heart breaking book, but could be written in a better way. But I still love it. 3.5/5 stars.

sacmersault's review against another edition

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3.0

Very interesting book. The blending of reality with fantasy works wonderfully here. The thing I loved the most about this book was all that I learned about Persian culture, folkore, etc. I loved that the author named a lot of books, singers, authors important to her. It gave me a long list of books to add to my reading list.

The style of the writing however did not fully convince me. It felt confusing at times. There was a lot of stories that felt went nowhere other than to add fantastic elements to the book.


***********SPOILER**************



The ending was the most suddenly most depressing ending I've ever read. It felt that out of nowhere everything just collapses and everything has to end badly only so that they end up together.