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The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, by Shokoofeh Azar

4 reviews

leahkrason's review

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emotional inspiring reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? N/A
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0


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sherbertwells's review

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adventurous dark emotional lighthearted reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.0

An intellectual Iranian family leaves the chaos of revolutionary Tehran for a remote village that plays host to jinns, curses and otherworldly nature. Azar borrows heavily from Gabriel García Márquez One Hundred Years of Solitude, and while she does not surpass her mentor fans of one will certainly find the other enjoyable and inspiring.

“Here and there a passerby who had missed the last buses looked up at the star-filled sky and wondered where the deluge was coming from. It was only the homeless addicts and vagabond lunatics whose inner eyes saw that a river of tears up Vali-asr Street flowed ahead of five thousand despairing, crying ghosts marching like a vanquished army, occasionally leaning against old plane trees and keening in a funereal lament” (76)

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meowrilena's review

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adventurous challenging dark emotional informative tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? N/A
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

3.5

Il y a une semaine, j'ai terminé de lire "The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree" de Shokoofeh Azar. Les critiques en parlaient comme de la version iranienne de "Cent ans de solitude" et, en effet, on voit que le centre du récit est l'histoire d'une famille, parsemé de détails magiques et, parfois, sensuels. À vrai dire, on ressent le manque de profondeur ou d'originalité dans le style, mais j'ai apprecié le fait que le "réalisme magique" de ce roman soit le résultat du mariage entre un décor ancré dans une réalité historique concrète (on est ici immediatement après la Révolution Islamique de 1979) et un récit dense de mythologie islamique et persane. Honorable mention pour mon chapitre préferé, où on assiste à la mort de Khomeynī, étouffé dans son château de miroirs.

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colbytsrm's review

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adventurous dark emotional hopeful mysterious reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated
This book follows a family who retreat into the mountains of Iran following the 1979 Iran Revolution, trying to escape the social and political changes that were happening. It's told in a non-linear perspective following different characters, although all narrated by the same person. While there are several stories shared from secondary characters, this novel focuses on four: Bahar, the narrator who's a ghost and youngest daughter of the family; Beeta, her older sister; Reza, her mother; and Hushang, her father. She also has a brother, Sohrab but he's not much in the story. 

I absolutely loved this story! The writing was poetic yet straightforward, dark but hopeful. The magic realism was also done exceptionally well and imbued the characters' stories with an enchanting quality that helped to recover from the dark scenes. And there were dark scenes as this novel touches on several violent moments in Iranian history as well as heartbreaking reactions of characters to trauma.

While perspectives of multiple characters were shared, which is usually a narrative style I don't love, it worked here. Each characters' "chapter" felt complete in and of themselves so there weren't any loose ends, while still giving enough depth to feel a connection to the characters and feel the stakes at hand. 

That said, there were a few things that weren't perfect for me. One is that there were a few moments that were totally random, just as one character
Spoilerturning into a mermaid
Spoiler that might have pushed the magic realism just a bit too far. I also wished that there was more of an exploration of the historical forces and how they were changing the society at large and the characters themselves. While this was touched upon, most of that action happened off page and I would have liked  to see direct action.

Even though it wasn't perfect, this is a story that I will think about for years. It hooked me from page one and gave me the same feelings I had whilst reading "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which is one of my favourite books of all time. In fact, the latter is mentioned a few times in this novel and there are quite a few similarities (although enough differences to prevent a direct comparison).

I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone.

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