The Septembers of Shiraz – Dalia Sofer

Posted 3 April, 2009 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 33 Comments


Title: The Septembers of Shiraz
Author: Dalia Sofer
Date Finished: April 2, 2009 #16
Published: 2007 Pages: 338
Rating: 4.25/5

I first heard about this book from Bethany and Dar and immediately after reading their reviews I put the book on my wishlist and shortly after ordered it from Amazon. And on my floor this book has patiently been sitting for months. Oh the life of a book addict. :) Gotta have it now so that I can read it later…you know you do it too…

The Septembers of Shiraz takes place in the early days of the Iranian Revolution (1981) and is centered around the Amins, a wealthy Jewish family. Parvis, the elder son, is living in New York City to attend school, but the rest of the family is trying to survive among the political and religious upheaval in Tehran. Isaac, the patriarch, is arrested and taken away to a terrible prison. It seems his crime is living a prosperous life and possibly his Jewish connections to Israel. In his absence, Farnaz, his wife, and Shirin, his young daughter, do what they can to protect their family and safeguard their lives.

I was truly swept away by this book. It is incredibly fast-paced and easy to read, but at the same time Sofer forced me to slow down and really take in what was happening to the Amin family. Each chapter focuses on one of the four characters–Parvis in New York, a non-practicing Jew who falls in love with a Hassidic neighborhood girl; Isaac in prison, not knowing what his crime is or if he will ever see his family again; Farnaz trying to hold together the household when her life has become so uncertain and she doesn’t know who she can trust; and little Shirin who doesn’t quite understand the new rules of her new world.

Sofer gives her readers a lot to contemplate in this debut novel. I dont’ think I’ve read any accounts of Jewish people in Iran, so it was an interesting perspective–especially while imprisoned, Isaac is trying to come to terms with the differences in his beliefs and the Muslim beliefs. Last year I read My Father’s Paradise, a non-fiction book about the author’s Jewish family in Iraq. The book talked a lot about the treatment of Jews after Hussein’s rise to power, and I would highly recommend to those interested in the topic. Along with different religious themes, Sofer also tackles the subjects that the revolutionaries grappled with–education, treatment of women, wealth–what makes a person worthy and who decides what is worthy.

The simple and flowing style of Sofer’s writing made it a pleasure to read, and while the subject matter is oftentimes heartbreaking I didn’t feel like the events were ever sensationalized. For the most part the book is very introspective and contemplative, something that I look for in books. If I had a complaint about this one, it would be that it was too short. It seemed that everything happened so quickly and I only got to know the characters a little bit; the story of Parvis in New York was especially underdeveloped. All in all, though, I would definitely recommend this book. I’ll definitely be looking forward to future books by Sofer.

Also read by:
~ Lesley ~ Bethany ~ Dar ~ Literary Feline ~ Amanda ~
(If I missed your, I apologize–please provide me with a link and I’ll include it)

33 Responses to “The Septembers of Shiraz – Dalia Sofer”

  1. I’ve got this one on my tbr list already, I think I saw it on your Orbis Terrarum challenge list and looked it up? Anyway, I’m really looking forward to it!

  2. This does sound like a very interesting read. To the wish list. And I LOVE the cover. Yeah, I know that doesn’t really matter, but it sure doesn’t hurt anything either. :)

  3. I have picked up this book several times in the bookstore, but the next time, I think I’ll actually need to buy it (come on Borders 40% off coupon!) I am interested in stories that deal with the treatment of women, especially in countries I am not familiar with (of which there are quite a few!).

    Oh, and I have NO idea what you are talking about with the whole buying a book, then letting it sit on a shelf. I NEVER do that :)

  4. I’d seen this on the shelves at B&N but hadn’t really paid any attention to it. I’ll look more closely next time; I just may end it getting and reading it. Thanks for reviewing it.

  5. Trish, great review of what sounds like a great book! Btw, my favorite book addict trick is to stock up on new titles right before the end of the month and then tell myself that I’ll only buy 1-2 new books the next month. In fact, I bought a book for your Classics Challenge just the other day using this very same “strategy.” Works like a charm!

  6. Ha yes, I know all about gotta buy it now to read it later :P

    This sounds amazing, and I’d definitely like to read it someday. And 338 pages is not that short, so I guess it’s a good sign that you wanted even more!

  7. *Lezlie – LOL! I know all about perpetual TBR books that you’ll get to someday. Hope you do get to this one soon.

    *Amanda – Hope you like this one! It was also a Notable Book and nominated for the Orange Prize.

    *Debi – I’m not ashamed to say that the cover caught my eye as well; I’m definitely a judge by the cover type of gal.

    *Amanda – Sorry I missed your review–it’s linked now. :)

    *Laura – Those Border coupons are evil…I’m convinced of it! Like I said earlier today, if you’re interested in the treatment of women, you really need to read A Thousand Splendid Suns. Such a great book.

    *Joy – Overall it was a pretty good book–I hope you like it! I almosted ranked it a 4.5, but something nagged me not to.

    *Hedgie – I hope you do like it when you get to it. I’ve heard very few negative things about it.

    *Richard – So basically you buy a bunch of books telling yourself next month you won’t, but then do it anyway? LOL! Sounds like me.

    *Nymeth – I’m trying to be better about buying books that I know I’m not going to read immediatley, but sometimes I just can’t help it! 338 pages doesn’t seem short, but the more I think about this book, the more I want to know. The middle eastern countries and their history/culture are so fascinating to me.

    *Natasha – Yup–so many fabulous books, so little time. The story of all of our lives. :) I think you’d like this one.

  8. Somehow I missed the other reviews but I’m so glad that I read yours!! This book sounds like a fascinating read, so I’ve added it to my must-read list for this year! Thanks for a great review and for the links to the other reviews :)

  9. I am glad you enjoyed this one, Trish. I liked it too, although wasn’t quite swept away by it as so many others.

    I still need to get myself a copy of My Father’s Paradise. I really want to read that one.

    Great review, Trish.

  10. I have this book on my TBR pile and still have not read it…even so it receives only great reviews.
    It’s time to move it up

    Have a nice week-end

  11. Trish, I’m glad you finally got to read this one and yes I know what you mean by buy it now so I can read it later. lol.

    This book still sticks in my mind even though I read it quite a while ago. It was an emotional story for me. I agree, I wish it had been longer too. There were many parts I wish had been drawn out more. I’m glad you liked it.

    Thanks for linking my review. I wonder if she’s got anything coming out soon. Maybe I should give it a look-see today. Have a great weekend.

  12. *Staci – I hope you like it–even though the subject matter is tough sometimes it is a really good read.

    *Carrie – Can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

    *Literary Feline – My Father’s Paradise was a great read–both from a history and personal biography standpoint.

    *Madeleine – It is a really quick read, if that helps with motivation to pick it up sooner. I hope you like it!

    *Dar – I’d definitely be interested in reading more by her; I really enjoyed her writing style. Everything was so fluid and thoughtful. Thanks for the great recommendation!

  13. I’ve been waiting for this book from PBS for so long. I think I am finally #1. Glad to see you enjoyed it.

  14. *S. Krishna – The book is really interesting; hope you like it!

    *Bermudaonion – Isn’t the cover great? There’s another cover for this one that I like a lot as well.

    *Melody – I hope you like it–it’s one of those that hits the emotions but also teaches a lot about the culture.

    *Diane – Yay–hope you get a copy of it soon! I’ve never used PBS, but I think I’m too impatient. :P

    *Michelle – I think you’d really like this one!

  15. Great review – definitely going on my TBR list. I love reading about Iran and this seems like a new and interesting perspective on the revolution. I’ve never read anything about Jews in Iran either.

  16. Trish, great review. I have been reading too many books on Iran that I feel I might get saturated but this book sounds like it offers a fresh perspective. View point of Jews in Iran after the Islamic revolution. Definitely adding this to my TBR list.

  17. *Ruinedbyreading – I hope you like this one. Have you read Persepolis? It is a graphic novel memoir and really fantastic.

    *Goms – This one is more focused on the family than the revolution, so it might be a nice break from history and politics.

  18. I have this book on my wishlist after reading Bethany’s and Dar’s review as well.. I think this will be my Iran read for this year’s OT.

  19. *Claire – Septembers of Shiraz was a great read—I’m really interested in reading about the Middle Eastern countries, especially during times of revolution.

    *Clueless – I hope you enjoy the book!!

  20. hey Trish, am avid reader too and i’ve read sofer’’s good. to my surprise you also read haruki’s kafka on the shore. i found his works unique.

    may i suggest.try read “the glass place” by amitav gosh. he’s the “time traveller”. worth reading.

  21. *Orange – Thanks for the great suggestion! I’ll definitely check out “The Glass Place”. Thanks for coming by. :)