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

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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