Friday, May 17, 2013
Book Review: The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani
Author: Anita Amirrezvani
Enjoyment Rating: ****
This book would be rated: R for some very adult sex scenes
When I started this audiobook I only knew a couple of things about it-- that it takes place in 17th-century Iran, and that it drew heavily on the Arabian Nights tales. So the early chapters, in which the nameless protagonist loses her father, travels with her mother to the city of Isfahan, and takes shelter with the family of her uncle, who is a rug-maker for the shah, seemed pretty much like I was expecting. She is also a rug maker, so she learns some valuable lessons in the household, but her impetuousness irritates her aunt. Then the girl, at the ripe old age of sixteen, is sold into a concubinage with a horse trader. At the time, it was legal (and okay in the eyes of God) for a man and a woman to have sex as long as they were contracted to each other. The girl's contract was renewable every three months, which meant that the end of the time period he could renew the contract (and pay her family more money), let the contract expire, or marry the girl. As she spends time with her husband, she learns a lot about herself-- both as a sexual being and as a self-respecting individual. And then, for a time, everything in her life seems to fall apart, until it comes back together.
The language of The Blood of Flowers is beautiful, and Amirrezvani does a wonderful job tying together the girl's story with folk tales that mirror or support the events in the narrative. It was also a delight to find the inner workings of the mind of a girl who, on the street, would have been covered from head to toe in a dark cloth. In much of the book, the girl suggests that her life has been difficult because of a comet that passed through the sky in the opening pages, and for a modern reader, that feels awfully capricious. When the girl's life is in a downward spiral, it seemed that her fate turned around in a similarly random way. All in all, though, a book I thoroughly enjoyed. For audiobook listeners-- don't be put off by the narrator's voice in the early chapters. She has a very strong accent, which makes her a little bit hard to understand until you get into the rhythms of the reading, and then she feels like the perfect choice as a narrator.