The Blood of Flowers: A Novel

by Anita Amirrezvani

Hardcover, 2008

Call number





Back Bay Books (2008), Edition: Reprint, 400 pages


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.… (more)

Media reviews

"Anita Amirrezvani's first novel is about the costs and consolations of beauty, and is itself so picturesque that it often seems a striking variation on its own theme."

User reviews

LibraryThing member ruinedbyreading
The basic plot of this novel is pretty familiar and much like Cinderella - a young girl falls on misfortune and is mistreated by the only family she has left. But The Blood of Flowers is much more complex than that. It deals with the highly controversial issue of temporary marriage, or sigheh. It also demonstrates how women can find themselves in very grave circumstances when they live in a society where one's only source of financial security is a husband, or sex. Finally, it illustrates how a woman succeeds against all odds and creates a business out of nothing.

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.
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LibraryThing member clik4
The Blood of Flowers was narrated by Shohreh Aghdashloo whose voice, -rich with an accented timbre, added authenticity to this story. An unnamed Persian girl, living during the 17th century, has a treasured life in her Iranian mountain village, the only child of loving parents. After her father dies, she and her mother, nearly starving, make their way to a relative’s home. There they are welcomed, superficially, as they are humiliated and treated as servants for the household. The uncle must see himself or possibly his brother in the girl as he allows her to enhance her carpet-making skills as his secret apprentice. Of marrying age and without a dowry, the family determines it is her best opportunity to accept a sigheh -a secret and temporary marriage, to be renewed at the whim of the husband). Not understanding her place and the expectations put upon her, the girl makes many mistakes leading to her punishment and eventual banishment from her uncle’s home. Without protection, -living on the streets without a male escort, means degradation, danger and starvation.

The story is mesmerizing, due to the narrator’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.
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LibraryThing member mrstreme
In her The Blood of Flowers, Anita Amirrezvani explored the lives of 16th century Iranian women and the art of making Persian rugs. It was an interesting juxtaposition as rug making was predominantly a male profession during this time, but it was the women, in particular the unnamed narrator, who had a special gift for making these famous carpets.

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 girl’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 family’s roof with bleak marriage prospects for the girl. The narrator though was more interested in rug making than marriage, and under her uncle’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 – money in return for sex – 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 husband’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. Amirrezvani’s uses of color to illuminate these sections of the book were unusual and successful – 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 it’s not surprising why. It’s a story that will stick with you for a long time.
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LibraryThing member michelle_bcf
I had no idea what to expect from this, and I discovered a beautifully written, insightful book. It’s set in pre-modern Iran, in a time when art was encouraged, and carpet making was an important skill. In a world where men and women had their own place, one girl finds the courage to make her own decisions.. although these are often with disastrous results.

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 author’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 hadn’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.
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LibraryThing member c.madsen
17th century Persia? Rug weaving?? Not a promising premise, but this book delivers. It is without a doubt the best book I have read in the past ten years. It is beautifully written, achingly beautiful, and the story is captivating. You will absolutely forget about the 17th century--actually you will forget about the 21st century completely.

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.
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LibraryThing member snat
I really enjoyed this fascinating look into the culture of 17th century Persia, especially from the perspective of women of all social classes. Particularly fascinating was the detailed look at the art of rugmaking and the traditional folk stories told by the narrator and the narrator's mother. I also liked that the narrator was headstrong and willful, but in a realistic way that often ended in tragedy for her. I thought such a narrator made the story accessible for both a modern and a Western audience as it made me realize how brash American thinking and actions can have implications one can not predict nor even imagine when interacting with another society--particularly those in the Middle East. While the story seems to often be headed in the traditional "happily ever after" direction, it doesn't--a few plot lines that I thought were going to be trite and predictable actually surprised me by not ending up where I thought they would (trying not to give away any spoilers here, but suffice it to say that I found the ending to be very appropriate).… (more)
LibraryThing member Chatterbox
This is a compelling historical novel -- and a welcome relief from Tudor-mania. The unnamed narrator and her mother are left poverty-stricken by the sudden death of her father; they must now rely on the charity and goodwill of her unknown uncle, a wealthy carpet maker to the shah in Isfahan.
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?
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LibraryThing member esmaykat
This book took some serious attention- don't give up before you've read the first 100 pages. It stimulated a lot of curiousity in me, both about the rugs and the geography of the area. I wonder about the conceit of having a woman running a business at that time - is it merely an author's conceit to involve contemporary readers, or was it really possible?… (more)
LibraryThing member Lisa2013
recommended for: everyone who enjoys novels, historical fiction novels

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 woman’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 readers’ 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. (We’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 haven’t yet followed my own advice, I’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 doesn’t include such extras, I thought the book was greatly enhanced by the included author’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.
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LibraryThing member KevinJoseph
Set in seventeenth-century Persia and narrated by an eighteen-year-old girl, "Blood of Flowers" would appear to have all the earmarks of a slow-moving period piece geared for an audience of women. Not so. This first novel turns out to be a work of art, every bit as dazzling as the Persian rugs designed and knotted by its unnamed heroine.

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.
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LibraryThing member rabbitreader
I don’t know about you, but for me it is hard to deal with protagonists who are subject to societal and historical limitations to their character development and (fictional) life chances. Settings that are overtly patriarchal, gender divided, and misogynistic frustrate my post-modern American sensibilities and especially confound me if I feel a strong connection/identify with the protagonist. In The Blood of Flowers, I definitely set up residence in the protagonist’s brain. It was so easy to sympathize with ______ (the author purposely never names her, which is a rather poignant way of asserting her as “every girl, Islam/Iran/Middle Eastern”), but you realize that you can never empathize with her, unless you’ve experienced the kind of dependency on every-man-in-your-life’s whims, homelessness, extreme poverty, and social invisibility. Although the main character has an exhaustingly difficult life, she is as resilient, sassy, and enterprising as any Western characters I’ve encountered (and even more so because her survival necessitates it). ______ and her mother move from their small village to live with an unknown uncle in the big city after the death of her father. Because _____ and her mother are completely dependent on uncle’s generosity and his wife’s unrealistic worries about the family’s finances, they are basically servants uncle’s house. Uncle just happens to be the city’s most talented carpet maker, and ______, an amateur carpet maker herself, finagles her way into becoming his home apprentice. The author includes plenty of compelling drama, including family gossip, love triangles, and intrigue, however, my favorite element of the novel are the legends/stories/fairy tales told by many different characters inserted in just the right places. The tales serve as foreshadowing, metaphors for the character’s lives, insight into the culture, and motivation for the characters to act/not act in certain ways. The ending is ambiguous, depending on the meaning you ascribe to the tales, which I like because that means each reader gets to imagine their own ending depending on how/to what degree you identify and empathize with the protagonist. This is also a book you “talk to,” meaning at times I was saying out loud to the hot-headed protagonist “no, don’t do that” and “not again, don’t be so hasty!” All in all, this is a fun, fast, and easy read, yet also has the potential for you to go deeper, in a “you get out what you put in” kind of way.… (more)
LibraryThing member reddnas1
I can't say enough good things about this book. A historic novel, it is set in Iran and is about a girl who wants to learn to weave rugs. Life for women in Iran is extremely difficult, and we follow the woman as she pursues her dream.

There is violence, sex (lots of sex,) cruelty, and kindness. You should read it.… (more)
LibraryThing member bollix
a nice solid book with an unusual time period covered
LibraryThing member tangledthread
The tale of a headstrong and talented young woman in the 17th century Iran. The main character and narrator is nameless to us as the only child of a peasant couple. She is almost 14 with no diary and in a headstrong way proceeds to dye wool and weave a rug that will provide for her dowry. Then her father dies, leaving her and her mother with no protection.
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.
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LibraryThing member corglacier7
Interesting historical novel about 17th century Persia (modern Iran), involving a lot of rich descriptions of the place and experience of women of the time, and also about urban versus rural existence. It's a very nice coming-of-age tale, and the passages about the heroine and her involvement in the craft of rug-weaving were a great read in particular.… (more)
LibraryThing member LukeS
"The Blood of Flowers" presents us with the story of an unnamed female narrator trying to make her way into adulthood in the Iranian capital of Isfahan in the 1620s. Our protaganist has a gift for designing and making, or "knotting" carpets, and after losing her father at fourteen, she must move from her native village to the home of her uncle in the dazzling capital.

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.
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LibraryThing member 30oddyearsofzan
A sensual and engaging coming of age story. I especially liked the traditional folktales interspersed with the narrative (including two 'in the style of' ones written by Anita Amirrezvani herself. Reading this novel has really piqued my interest in historical Iran, so I was grateful that my edition had a list of recommended further reading from the author!… (more)
LibraryThing member tloeffler
A very interesting novel set in 17th century Persia, with a twist on the "life of women in the Middle East." I was absolutely delighted with the last half of the book. I particularly enjoyed the stories woven through the text.
LibraryThing member pam.furney
Beautifully written story about a young disadvantaged girl, growing up in 17th Century Iran, amidst the craft of rug-making. What is most interesting are the expectations of and customs for women in this era. Are they real?
LibraryThing member woosang
A sad story of a girl in Iran during the 17th Century who tries to rise above the tragedy of her father's death. She and her mother take refuge with relatives who eventually throw them out. After nearly losing her mother to sickness, she returns to her Uncle to beg for help. He offers her a commision and from this small start, she is able to help her mother and adopted family buy food and a new house. After she becomes friends with a princess, she is able to employ other needy woman. A unique story, extemely well written and hard to put down.… (more)
LibraryThing member eenerd
This is a big book which you will fly through because the writing and the story are amazing. A village girl comes of age in 15th century Iran after the death of her father forces she & her mother to move to the capital city to live with a long-lost uncle and his family. The women, and especially the girl, do what they must to survive while striving not to lose their self-respect or hope. A poignant, beautiful book.… (more)
LibraryThing member CatieN
It is 17th century Persia, and a young woman living in a small village is leading a happy life with her father and mother knowing she will be married soon. Then tragedy strikes at her father's workplace, and he is killed, and the girl and her mother, penniless, are forced to travel to Isfahan and throw themselves on the mercy of the father's half-brother, who is a rich rug-maker for the Shah. The young girl herself is fascinated by rug-making and convinces her uncle to train her in the art. The girl is very talented, but bad luck and impulsive actions almost destroy everything in her life. A beautifully told story interspersed with fables and a fascinating look at a life where women were totally at the mercy of their male benefactors.… (more)
LibraryThing member risadabomb
A lush, historical romp. The imagery is vivid and the story very poignant and touching.
LibraryThing member cameling
A woman and her daughter are made homeless in Persia following the death of a man. An uncle welcomes them to live with them, and they pay for their keep by doing the housekeeping and cooking. The daughter is fascinated by her uncle's carpet weaving business and starts to accompany him to work, to watch him as he designs carpets, and then picks colors for his weavers to turn his designs into luxurious carpets that he sells.

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.
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LibraryThing member curatorial
A disappointment. I thought this would be more historically detailed, and would give me an understanding of what it meant to be a carpet maker in Isfahan in the 17th century. But it is really dumbed down--all you learn is some basic principles of design that are applicable to any art or high craft. As you read, the book is more and more about creating steamy sex scenes between the heroine and her arranged husband. More pulp fiction than historical fiction, alas.… (more)




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