Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rooftops of Tehran; Mahbod Seraji

I was so excited when I this came in the mail, I can't tell you! The blurb sounded wonderful. How can you resist young love and ideology and political unrest? All mixed in with the ancient Persian culture? Certainly not me. Many many years ago my parents bought me a beautiful lavishly illustrated child's book titled Persian Fairy tales. I read that book cover to cover often & my fascination for Persian culture stayed with me into adulthood. Rooftops of Tehran is a modern coming of age tale set in 1973 & 1974 Tehran, Iran.

Pasha Shahed and his best friend Ahmed are seventeen year old young men who live in the same alley in Tehran Iran in 1973 and 1974. They do many of the things buddies do: swear not to date each other's sister or any other girl the other admires, they plot together how to get the attention of the girls they admire from afar, they play crazy practical jokes on each other, they commiserate about how awful school is and they have lots of sleepovers.

They gossip and laugh and sneak around, just like teenagers everywhere. The objects of their admiration are Faheemeh (Ahmed thinks she's perfect) and Zari Naderi, who is actually engaged to college junior Ramin Sobhi. Pasha can barely admit to himself that he likes her because he admires Ramin as well. And everyone knows Zari and Doctor, Ramin's nickname in the neighborhood, are absolutely perfect for each other. Pasha wouldn't dare interfere with that. Would he?

We watch as the seasons slowly turn in 1973. Ahmed and Faheemeh manage to become a couple despite her near miss arranged marriage. Pasha becomes friends with Doctor and resolves to do the honorable thing and hide his feelings for Zari. Pasha loves and admires his father, but feels pressured to strive for his father's ambitions as opposed to his own. He's only seventeen though, he still has one more year of high school to go. Surely he'll think of a way to subvert his father's wishes by the time he graduates?

However, there are rumblings of upheaval to come. The Shah's regime is oppressive, and actively spies on his populace ruthlessly suppressing and eradicating any dissension- or even attempts at independent, critical thinking. Doctor is a third year political science major at a prominent university. The trial of a notorious political dissident marks the beginnings of drastic changes for all four friends.

Mr. Seraji does a superb job submerging the reader in the daily life and culture of everyday Iranians. Pasha's interior dialogue is quite vivid and his personality captures & holds your attention right away. The novel opens innocently enough but slowly and steadily an ominous feeling creeps over the reader. Tension builds. Hope and dread build simultaneously. I highly recommend this book. I plan to keep a sharp eye out for this author's future titles.

I received a review copy of this book from Authors on the Web

Rooftops of Tehran can be bought HERE.


Louise said...

What a great and well written review for a book which sounds very interesting!

Bookwormom said...

Thank you!

Kailana said...

This looks interesting! I will have to add it to the list!