A review by abbie_
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, by Shokoofeh Azar

adventurous challenging emotional reflective slow-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated


(#gifted @thebookerprizes) ‘Or if just once they were to watch and understand the blooming of a flower or birth of a lamb, using their senses of sight and hearing and smell completely, perhaps humans would come to the conclusion that in all the days and nights of their lives, only that minute in which they are immersed is worth calculating.’
From the lows of Red Dog I moved on to this absolute GEM of a novel from the International Booker longlist and my faith in the judges was restored. I’m going to be bold and say if you were going to read just ONE book from the longlist, make it this one. That’s right! And I still have six to read. (Although do consider reading more from the list as there is some cracking translated fiction here!)
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is a blend of magical realism and historical fiction set during the Iranian Revolution of 1979, going up to pretty much present day. It recalls two of my favourite novels, The House of the Spirits and One Hundred Years of Solitude, as it focuses on a family over the years whose lives are touched by magic. But it’s also steeped in Iranian folklore which sets it apart and allows it to stand on its own two feet (or mermaid tail).
Azar, an Iranian refugee now living in Australia, wrote originally in Persian and their translator has done an incredible job of rendering that lyrical language into English. But here’s the kicker. The translator has requested to remain anonymous for security reasons. The book has not been ‘officially’ published in Iran because of its stance against the regime - Azar herself was arrested multiple times when she worked as a journalist before seeking political asylum in Australia.
I know I haven’t said all that much about the plot but I genuinely believe I could do no justice to the book that way. This one has to be experienced to appreciate the richness of the prose. The combination of the mythical element and brutal historical fact is perfection, and I will definitely have my eye on anything else Azar writes!