In 17th-century Persia, a 14-year-old woman believes she will be married within the year. But when her beloved father dies, she and her mother find themselves alone and without a dowry. With nowhere else to go, they are forced to sell the brilliant turquoise rug the young woman has woven to pay for their journey to Isfahan, where they will work as servants for her uncle, a rich rug designer in the court of the legendary Shah Abbas the Great. Despite her lowly station, the young woman blossoms as a brilliant designer of carpets, a rarity in a craft dominated by men. But while her talent flourishes, her prospects for a happy marriage grow dim. Forced into a secret marriage to a wealthy man, the young woman finds herself faced with a daunting decision: forsake her own dignity, or risk everything she has in an effort to create a new life.
The Blood of Flowers reads very much like a fairy tale, which makes it very enjoyable to read and difficult to put down. The author laces the main story with Persian fables and tales. I found this to be unique and quite enchanting. The characters are well developed, if not a little predictable at times. But I don't think that any predictability takes away from the story. I enjoyed seeing the anonymous narrator grow up from a little girl to a mature, at times jaded, but always ambitious young woman.
The first, and most controversial issue is the issue of temporary marriage. For security, the unnamed narrator consents to a temporary marriage to please her greedy family. But temporary marriage is represented in other ways, too. To one woman, it is a way for her to finally be with her true love after her first husband has died. In another case, it is void of any sexual connotation and simply used in order to make it proper for people to live in close quarters. In yet another case, it is offered as a way to make prostitution legal, which is how it is most often used in parts of the world today.
The second major issue is the issue of woman's ability to be independent. The source of all of the narrator's misfortunes is really that she has no other way to easily provide for herself outside of begging and prostitution if she has no male relatives left willing to care for her. She eventually overcomes this, after many years of suffering and hard work. But I feel that while these cultural and religious conventions may have been put into place originally to serve as a protection for women, they often times end up being a major obstacle, or even one of the causes for great suffering among women.
One thing I appreciate is that while there is a happily-ever-after ending, it's not in the way novels like this traditionally end. There is no great love story, and no one rides off into the sunset together. I very much respect that the author didn't play into this cliche.
I had not expected to love The Blood of Flowers as much as I did. I strongly recommend it to everyone.
The story is mesmerizing, due to the narratorâ€™s rich voice and the culture infused story. Anchored around the trade of carpet-making it is sensual and as rare as a Persian carpet. Left with no resources, she gambles on her artistry and imagination to pull herself, her mother and her adopted family from poverty and hunger to prestige and a life to be admired.
The narrator is an unmarried 15-year old girl who lived in a village with her parents. Upon the untimely death of her father, the girl and her mother moved to Isfahan, the beautiful capital of Iran, to live with the girlâ€™s uncle, one of the royal rug makers. The women endured continued hard ships in their new home, relegated to live as servants under their familyâ€™s roof with bleak marriage prospects for the girl. The narrator though was more interested in rug making than marriage, and under her uncleâ€™s tutelage, she started her unofficial internship (women were not allowed to be apprentices) in the art form of creating Persian rugs. For the narrator, it was her success as a rug maker, not scoring a wealthy husband, that would better guarantee her financial freedom.
However, it was 16th century Iran, and the reality that she must marry became evident to the narrator, especially under the pressures of her mother and aunt. A wealthy horse owner soon offered the girl a sigheh, a three-month marriage contract that could be renewed if the husband was pleased with his wife. In effect, the sigheh was a form of prostitution â€“ money in return for sex â€“ and the best the wife could hope for was to sexually entertain her husband enough to inspire a renewal, or to get pregnant to secure an income as the mother of her husbandâ€™s child. Faced with no other prospects, the narrator suffered this indignity to provide income to her family.
The characters in this book were deftly drawn, and the reader felt a real attachment to them, especially the narrator. She was strong and impulsive, often making mistakes despite her best intentions. You saw her growth as a person, and one could not help but root for her. She definitely had a stroke of bad luck and personal issues, but Amirrezvani invested you in her life with each page.
In addition to strong characterization, the passages about making the rugs and the descriptions of Isfahan were exquisite. Amirrezvaniâ€™s uses of color to illuminate these sections of the book were unusual and successful â€“ and added great dimension to the story.
I highly recommend The Blood of Flowers to readers who enjoy learning more about the history of women in different countries or who have an interest in Persian history. Anita Amirrezvani was long-listed for the Orange Prize for this book, and itâ€™s not surprising why. Itâ€™s a story that will stick with you for a long time.
The descriptions of the village and the city pull you into the story, and the characters keep you there. The setting may be unusual, but the themes are universal.. the ups and downs of friendship, the love of family, the various relationships between man and woman.
The narrator is unnamed, which is the authorâ€™s way of acknowledging anonymous artists from the time. However, this in no way distracts from the story, and in fact, it was something I hadnâ€™t even realised until I read other reviews.
Despite the journeys that she takes, and the hardships she endures, there is a gentleness running through this book. The author was born in Iran, and her book is well researched.
The title is wonderfully ambiguous, and the book carries through on all of its meanings. If I could give this book more than five stars, I would.
The tale is, on the surface, a straightforward one: the heroine must rise above many obstacles to discern and pursue her own path in life. But the setting and the author's voice are distinctive enough to propel this above and beyond the genre. The story is interwoven with traditional Persian folk tales; at times, the book itself takes on a similar rhythym. The personalities of the characters -- the envious aunt, the hen-pecked uncle who nonethless takes immense pride in his niece's burgeoning talent as a carpet designer, the mother striving to make the best possible arrangements for her dowryless daughter -- are as vivid as the colors of any Persian carpet.
This is a beautiful and impeccably written novel. The themes are about as traditional as you can get, but who cares?
I will never again look at Persian/Iranian carpets in the same way. This book makes me want to view many examples of such carpets so that I can now fully appreciate their artistry.
This is a finely crafted first novel and I really hope that this author writes more novels. I love her writing style and storytelling.
I was completely immersed in the story, characters, and the time & place of this book. I loved the stories within the story, the depiction of a particular womanâ€™s life and a look into the various life experiences of all the characters.
My only minor complaint is that possibly too much happened right at the end of the book; it took a long time to get there. I enjoyed the journey but it seemed a bit packed toward the end and, even though I understand the reasoning of leaving the end partially up to the readersâ€™ imaginations, I would have loved to know more about what happened next and far into the future for that matter.
So, this is the book that finally (perhaps) will break me of my habit of reading every single word on the cover and in the inside flaps and any reviews included. (Weâ€™ll see.) As usual, I read all the text mentioned before I read the book. I therefore then kept waiting for certain things to happen rather than just enjoying the story as it unfolded and being able to be completely surprised as events occurred. (Even though I havenâ€™t yet followed my own advice, Iâ€™d suggest reading the novel first and then, if interested, reading the text not written by the author.)
However, even though I read a hardcover edition which often doesnâ€™t include such extras, I thought the book was greatly enhanced by the included authorâ€™s notes at the end of the book. I would have enjoyed the novel as much without them but the information was very interesting and, along with the novel, piqued my interest in seventeenth century Iranian history, especially as it pertains to women.
The story begins with the appearance of an ominous comet in the skies, portending a year of ill fortune for our narrator, who is due to be married in the coming months. Sure enough, her father suddenly dies, leaving the girl and her mother without the dowry required to attract a worthy suitor. Facing poverty, mother and daughter take up residence as servants in the household of an uncle who makes Persian rugs on commission for wealthy patrons.
A self-taught village rug-maker herself, the girl wins her uncle's confidence, becoming an apprentice of sorts and learning the intricacies required to fashion city carpets of the highest quality. But when she's forced to accept a three-month marriage contract to a wealthy horse trader, whose interest is hedonistic and short-term, the girl is caught in an untenable situation in which her family's financial security and her self-respect come into violent conflict. As she matures from a headstrong young girl to a pragmatic woman with a feminist bent, our heroine struggles to defy the odds and forge a future for herself and her mother in this male-dominated society.
It's a tribute to the author's methodical research, rich descriptive detail and knack for the cadence of good storytelling that this reader found himself completely transported into the novel's exotic world. Like the rugs for which Persia is famous, the structure of "Blood of Flowers" brings together its motifs in a simple but timelessly-elegant manner. If you enjoy novels like the "Kite Runner," you'll love this book.
There is violence, sex (lots of sex,) cruelty, and kindness. You should read it.
They move to the city of Isfahan under the protection of her father's half brother who manages the Shah's carpet workshop and is also a well known designer. In the home of this uncle and his wife, they are indeed protected and at the same time humiliated again and again. The wife continuously finds ways to exploit the them for personal gain.
There is drama, plot twists, sensuality, and a measure of victory as the narrator tells us the story of her young life.
Our heroine suffers at the hands of her family, her friends, and the restrictive mores of the time. Yet she and her mother prevail, as a combination of events makes it possible for her to pursue her vocation to design and make carpets fit for the palace.
I felt as though our protaganist was a real and believable character, with the one objection that she was given a few too many 21st-century traits and ambitions. Characterizations are a strong suit for Ms. Amirrezvani, starting with her heroine. The plot was too contrived in places - never moreso than when her best friend - whom I could barely stomach, and who continued to enjoy our beloved carpet-weaver's devotion after so many cruel betrayals (inexplicable!) - this "friend" winds up marrying the man who had taken the narrator as a concubine. And the outcome held no surprises; it was as predictable as nightfall.
Presumably Ms. Amirrezvani aimed to show Isfahan at its zenith, and it was a good college try on her part. This fiction, though, was just barely polished enough to bring it off.
As she grows up, her uncle notices that she has an eye for color and design, and allows her to design her own carpet, and to weave it. He becomes her mentor, much to the anger of his wife, who feels he is favoring her above his own daughters.
She eventually starts her own carpet business, hiring women who have to fend for themselves, or who are being abused by their husbands at home.
This is a great story about a woman who ignores societal dictates and builds a life for herself and helps others in the process.