In 17th-century Iran, 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.
|Publisher:||Little, Brown and Company|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.20(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 18 Years|
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The Blood of Flowers
By Anita Amirrezvani
Little, Brown and CompanyCopyright © 2007 Anita Amirrezvani
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIn the spring of the year that I was supposed to be married, a comet launched itself over the skies of my village. It was brighter than any comet we had ever seen, and more evil. Night after night, as it crawled across our skies spraying its cold white seeds of sorrow, we tried to decipher the fearsome messages of the stars. Hajj Ali, the most learned man in our village, traveled to Isfahan to fetch a copy of the chief astronomer's almanac so we would know what calamities to expect.
The evening he returned, the people of my village began assembling outside to listen to the predictions for the months ahead. My parents and I stood near the old cypress, the only tree in our village, which was decorated with strips of cloth marking people's vows. Everyone was looking upward at the stars, their chins pointing toward the sky, their faces grave. I was small enough to see under Hajj Ali's big white beard, which looked like a tuft of desert scrub. My mother, Maheen, pointed at the Sunderer of Heads, which burned red in the night sky. "Look how Mars is inflamed!" she said. "That will add to the comet's malice."
Many of the villagers had already noticed mysterious signs or heard of misfortunes caused by the comet. A plague had struck the north of Iran, killing thousands of people. An earthquake in Doogabad had trapped a bride in her home, suffocating her and her women guests moments before she was to join her groom. In my village, red insects that had never been seen before had swarmed over our crops.
Goli, my closest friend, arrived with her husband, Ghasem, who was much older than we were. She greeted me with a kiss on each cheek.
"How are you feeling?" I asked. Her hand flew to her belly.
"Heavy," she replied, and I knew she must be worried about the fate of the new life inside her.
Before long, everyone in my village had gathered, except for the old and the infirm. Most of the women were wearing bright bell-shaped tunics over slim trousers, with fringed head scarves over their hair, while the men were attired in long white tunics, trousers, and turbans. But Hajj Ali wore a black turban, indicating his descent from the Prophet Mohammad, and carried an astrolabe wherever he went.
"Good villagers," he began, in a voice that sounded like a wheel dragging over stones, "let us begin by heaping praise on the first followers of the Prophet, especially upon his son-in-law Ali, king of all believers."
"May peace be upon him," we replied.
"This year's predictions begin with poor news for our enemies. In the northeast, the Ozbaks will suffer an infestation of insects so fierce it will destroy their wheat. In the northwest, troop desertions will plague the Ottomans, and even farther west, in the Christian kingdoms, inexplicable diseases will disarrange the lips of kings."
My father, Isma'il, leaned toward me and whispered, "It's always good to know that the countries we're fighting are going to have miserable luck." We laughed together, since that's how it always was.
As Hajj Ali continued reading from the almanac, my heart skipped as if I were climbing a mountain. I was wondering what he would say about marriages made during the year, which was what I cared about the most. I began fiddling with the fringe on my head scarf, a habit my mother always urged me to break, as Hajj Ali explained that no harm would come to paper, books, or the art of writing; that earthquakes would occur in the south but would be mild; and that there would be battles great enough to tinge the Caspian Sea red with blood.
Hajj Ali waved the almanac at the crowd, which is what he did when the prediction he was about to read was alarming. His assistant, who was holding an oil lamp, jumped to move out of his way.
"Perhaps the worst thing of all is that there will be large and inexplicable lapses in moral behavior this year," he read, "lapses that can only be explained by the influence of the comet."
A low murmur came from the crowd as people began discussing the lapses they had already witnessed in the first days of the New Year. "She took more than her share of water from the well," I heard Zaynab say. She was Gholam's wife, and never had a good word to say about anyone.
Hajj Ali finally arrived at the subject that concerned my future. "On the topic of marriages, the year ahead is mixed," he said. "The almanac says nothing about those that take place in the next few months, but those contracted later this year will be full of passion and strife."
I looked anxiously at my mother, since I expected to be married at that time, now that I was already fourteen. Her eyes were troubled, and I could see she did not like what she had heard.
Hajj Ali turned to the last page in the almanac, looked up, and paused, the better to capture the crowd's attention. "This final prophecy is about the behavior of women, and it is the most disquieting of all," he said. "Throughout the year, the women of Iran will fail to be acquiescent."
"When are they ever?" I heard Gholam say, and laughter bubbled around him.
My father smiled at my mother, and she brightened from within, for he loved her just the way she was. People always used to say that he treated her as tenderly as if she were a second wife.
"Women will suffer from their own perverse behavior," Hajj Ali warned. "Many will bear the curse of sterility, and those who succeed in giving birth will wail in unusual pain."
My eyes met Goli's, and I saw my own fear reflected in hers. Goli was worried about childbirth, while I was troubled by the thought of a disorderly union. I prayed that the comet would shoot across the firmament and leave us undisturbed.
Seeing me shiver, my father wrapped a lamb's wool blanket over my shoulders, and my mother took one of my hands between hers and rubbed it to warm me. From where I stood in the center of my village, I was surrounded by the familiar sights of home. Not far away was our small mosque, its dome sparkling with tile; the hammam where I bathed every week, steamy inside and dappled with light; and the scarred wooden stalls for the tiny market that sprang up on Thursdays, where villagers traded fruit, vegetables, medicines, carpets, and tools. A path led away from the public buildings and passed between a cluster of mud-brick homes that sheltered all two hundred souls in my village, and it ended at the foot of the mountain and the rutted paths where my goats roamed for food. All these sights filled me with comfort, so that when my mother squeezed my hand to see how I was feeling, I squeezed back. But then I pulled my hand away because I didn't want to seem like a child.
"Baba," I whispered to my father in a small voice. "What if Hajj Ali's predictions about marriage come true?"
My father couldn't hide the concern in his eyes, but his voice was firm. "Your husband will pave your path with rose petals," he replied. "If at any time, he fails to treat you with honor ..."
He paused for a moment, and his dark eyes looked fierce, as if what he might do were too terrible to imagine. He started to say something, but then stopped himself.
"... you can always come back to us," he finished.
Shame and blame would follow a wife who returned to her parents, but my father didn't seem to care. His kind eyes crinkled at the corners as he smiled at me.
Hajj Ali concluded the meeting with a brief prayer. Some of the villagers broke off into family groups to discuss the predictions, while others started walking back to their homes. Goli looked as if she wanted to talk, but her husband told her it was time to go home. She whispered that her feet ached from the weight in her belly and said good night.
My parents and I walked home on the single mud lane that pierced the village. All the dwellings were huddled together on either side for warmth and protection. I knew the path so well I could have walked it blind and turned at just the right moment to reach our house, the last one before our village gave way to sand and scrub. My father pushed open our carved wooden door with his shoulders, and we entered our one-room home. Its walls were made of packed mud and straw brightened with white plaster, which my mother kept sparkling clean. A small door led to an enclosed courtyard where we enjoyed the sun without being seen by other eyes.
My mother and I removed our head scarves and placed them on hooks near the door, slipping off our shoes at the same time. I shook out my hair, which reached my waist. For good luck, I touched the curved ibex horns that glowed on a low stand near the door. My father had felled the ibex on one of our Friday afternoon walks. Ever since that day, the horns had held a position of pride in our household, and my father's friends often praised him for being as nimble as an ibex.
My father and I sat together on the red-and-brown carpet I had knotted when I was ten. His eyes closed for a moment, and I thought he looked especially tired.
"Are we walking tomorrow?" I asked.
His eyes flew open. "Of course, my little one," he replied.
He had to work in the fields in the morning, but he insisted he wouldn't miss our walk together for anything other than God's command. "For you shall soon be a busy bride," he said, and his voice broke.
I looked away, for I couldn't imagine leaving him.
My mother threw dried dung in the stove to boil water for tea. "Here's a surprise," she said, bringing us a plate of fresh chickpea cookies. They were fragrant with the essence of roses.
"May your hands never ache!" my father said.
They were my favorite sweets, and I ate far too many of them. Before long, I became tired and spread out my bedroll near the door, as I always did. I fell asleep to the sound of my parents talking, which reminded me of the cooing of doves, and I think I even saw my father take my mother in his arms and kiss her.
THE NEXT AFTERNOON, I stood in our doorway and watched for my Baba as the other men streamed back from the fields. I always liked to pour his tea for him before he walked in the door. My mother was crouched over the stove, baking bread for our evening meal.
When he didn't arrive, I went back into the house, cracked some walnuts and put them in a small bowl, and placed the irises I had gathered in a vessel with water. Then I went out to look again, for I was eager to begin our walk. Where was he? Many of the other men had returned from the fields and were probably washing off the day's dust in their courtyards.
"We need some water," my mother said, so I grabbed a clay jug and walked toward the well. On my way, I ran into Ibrahim the dye maker, who gave me a peculiar look.
"Go home," he said to me. "Your mother needs you."
I was surprised. "But she just told me to fetch water," I said.
"No matter," he replied. "Tell her I told you to go back."
I walked home as quickly as I could, the vessel banging against my knees. As I approached our house, I spotted four men bearing a limp bundle between them. Perhaps there had been an accident in the fields. From time to time, my father brought back stories about how a man got injured by a threshing tool, suffered a kick from a mule, or returned bloodied from a fight. I knew he'd tell us what had happened over tea.
The men moved awkwardly because of their burden. The man's face was hidden, cradled on one of their shoulders. I said a prayer for his quick recovery, for it was hard on a family when a man was too ill to work. As the group approached, I noticed that the victim's turban was wrapped much like my father's. But that didn't mean anything, I told myself quickly. Many men wrapped their turbans in a similar way.
The front bearers got out of step for a moment, and they almost lost hold of the man. His head lolled as though it were barely attached to his body, and his limbs had no life in them. I dropped the clay vessel, which shattered around my feet.
"Bibi," I whimpered. "Help!"
My mother came outside, brushing flour from her clothes. When she saw my father, she uttered a piercing wail. Women who lived nearby streamed out of their houses and surrounded her like a net while she tore the air with her sorrow. As she writhed and jumped, they caught her gently, holding her and stroking the hair away from her face.
The men brought my father inside and laid him on a bedroll. His skin was a sickly yellow color, and a line of saliva slid out of the corner of his mouth. My mother put her fingers near his nostrils.
"Praise be to God, he's still breathing!" she said.
Naghee, who worked with my father in the fields, didn't know where to look as he told us what had happened. "He seemed tired, but he was fine until this afternoon," he said. "Suddenly he grabbed his head and fell to the ground, gasping for air. After that, he didn't stir."
"May God spare your husband!" said a man I didn't recognize. When they had done all they could to make him comfortable, they left, murmuring prayers for good health.
My mother's brow was furrowed as she removed my father's cotton shoes, straightened his tunic, and arranged the pillow under his head. She felt his hands and forehead and declared his temperature normal, but told me to fetch a blanket and cover him to keep him warm.
The news about my father spread quickly, and our friends began arriving to help. Kolsoom brought the water she had collected from a spring near a saint's shrine that was known for its healing powers. Ibrahim took up a position in the courtyard and began reciting the Qur'an. Goli came by, her boy asleep in her arms, with hot bread and stewed lentils. I brewed tea to keep the warmth in everyone's body. I knelt near my father and watched his face, praying for a flutter of his eyelids, even a grimace-anything that would assure me life remained in his body.
Rabi'i, the village physician, arrived after night had fallen with cloth bags full of herbs slung on each shoulder. He laid them near the door and knelt to examine my father by the light of the oil lamp, which flickered brokenly. His eyes narrowed as he peered closely at my father's face. "I need more light," he said.
I borrowed two oil lamps from neighbors and placed them near the bedroll. The physician lifted my father's head and carefully unwound his white turban. His head looked heavy and swollen. In the light, his face was the color of ash, and his thick hair, which was flecked with gray, looked stiff and ashen, too.
Rabi'i touched my father's wrists and neck, and when he did not find what he was looking for, he laid his ear against my father's chest. At that moment, Kolsoom asked my mother in a whisper if she would like more tea. The physician lifted his head and asked everyone to be silent, and after listening again, he arose with a grave face and announced, "His heart beats, but only faintly."
"Ali, prince among men, give strength to my husband!" my mother cried.
Rabi'i collected his bags and removed bunches of herbs, explaining to Kolsoom how to brew them into a heart-enlivening medicine. He also promised to return the next morning to check on my father. "May God rain His blessings on you!" he said as he took his leave. Kolsoom began stripping the herbs off their stalks and throwing them into a pot, adding the water my mother had boiled.
As Rabi'i left, he stopped to talk with Ibrahim, who was still in the courtyard. "Don't halt your praying," he warned, and then I heard him whisper the words "God may gather him tonight."
I tasted something like rust on my tongue. Seeking my mother, I rushed into her arms and we held each other for a moment, our eyes mirrors of sorrow.
My father began to make wheezing sounds. His mouth was still slack, his lips slightly parted, and his breath rasped like dead leaves tossed by the wind. My mother rushed away from the stove, her fingers green from the herbs. She leaned over my father and cried, "Voy, my beloved! Voy!"
Kolsoom hurried over to peer at my father and then led my mother back to the stove, for there was nothing to be done. "Let us finish this medicine to help him," said Kolsoom, whose ever-bright eyes and pomegranate cheeks testified to her powers as an herbalist.
When the herbs had been boiled and cooled, Kolsoom poured the liquid into a shallow bowl and brought it to my father's side. While my mother raised his head, Kolsoom gently spooned the medicine into his mouth. Most of it spilled over his lips, soiling the bedroll. On the next try, she got the medicine into his mouth, but my father sputtered, choked, and for a moment appeared to stop breathing.
Kolsoom, who was usually so calm, put down the bowl with shaking hands and met my mother's eyes. "We must wait until his eyes open before we try again," she advised.
My mother's head scarf was askew, but she didn't notice. "He needs his medicine," she said weakly, but Kolsoom told her that he needed his breath more.
Ibrahim's voice was starting to sound hoarse, and Kolsoom asked me to attend to him. I poured some hot tea and served it to him with dates in the courtyard. He thanked me with his eyes but never stopped his reciting, as if the power of his words could keep my father alive.
Excerpted from The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani Copyright © 2007 by Anita Amirrezvani . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The role of women in 17th-century Iran is the basis of this first novel – heart-breakingly, not so different from the role of middle-eastern women in many areas even today. The insight into the world of these women is well worth the read. The main character is teenage girl forced through circumstance to find a way to support her mother and herself. The sudden death of her father has left them without means and protection. Mercifully they are able to move from their small village to the city to live with her uncle. Their arrival is not well-received by her aunt, who considers them two more mouths to feed, and they end up as unpaid household help, working tirelessly at menial jobs, instead of as members of the family. The girl had begun developing skills as a carpet weaver prior to moving to the city. As luck would have it, her uncle is a master carpet designer for the Shah. He has no sons and allows the girl to work as his apprentice, learning designs and colors [the blood of flowers], and over time, through trial and error, she begins proving herself equal to the task. The background for this novel is as relevant today as it was 400 years ago. The women in the story are “nothing.” Without a male family member to support them they would be beggars. They have no income or means to aspire to a better life, though we see that the girl’s carpet-making skill may lead somewhere. That is until the son of a wealthy family appears in their lives with a marriage proposal. Unfortunately, due to the girl’s low class status, she is only offered a 3-month marriage contract, renewable if the man continues to desire her, and she will not live in his home. Her mother and uncle seize upon the opportunity and she is essentially sold into a life that requires a very different set of skills. This is a very moving story that details all the emotions and trials of the girl’s life -- fittingly, she remains namelss throughout the book.
As an Iranian woman and new novelist 'Aria', I try to read all the fiction and memoir published by Iranian-Americans. Anita Amirrezvani's beautiful novel is my new favorite in this genre. The Blood of Flowers, set in 17th Century Isfahan under rule by one of the greatest monarchs of Iran, details the lives of women from a Persian woman's perspective, a refreshing contrast from the limited view by Orientalist painters and expatriate adventurers. This is a coming of age story of a feisty teenage girl who finds herself in unsavory circumstances following the death of her father. Her passion for weaving carpets becomes the key to her survival and her adult education. With sumptuous prose and historically-accurate sensuality, Amirrezvani's debut novel is sure to become a favorite choice for book clubs, Ethnic Studies/Middle Eastern courses, and even young adult readers. In a time of mounting tension between Iran and the United States, we need books that open doors to Persian culture more than ever before. The Blood of Flowers is storytelling at its very best--it humanizes the people of Iran, brings alive a rich period in history little understood in the West, and unravels the intriguing mysteries of the Persian carpet.
Excellently written, and this book spiraled me into a mania for all things Persia. Besides the insanely awesome title, the author really breathes life into her characters. It is also a well-researched books.
A truly inspirational story about a woman forced into impossible choices and situations. A very different story than what I usually read, but I could not help but get entranced by its lyrical language intertwined with persian stories/fables. Under the surface, it beckoned the reader to look into what freedom means especially as a woman and asks the reader to consider what one would do or rather endure for one's family or for money/survival.
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?
The Blood of Flowers is the life of a young woman whose destiny was shattered when a meteor appeared in the sky when she was a young girl. Since the event, her life has been hard. Her father dies, and she and her mother must relocate to a large city with family. Over time, while the young girl grows into a woman, she discovers what her true destiny is. The novel is also dotted with several Persian folk tales, which help to tie the story together.
Loved the story line of this book. Within the story, Iranian literature (folk/fairy tales) are woven into the book after every chapter. Fascinating read from a historical and cultural perspective. Did not care for the reader on the audiobook so I would recommend getting it in paper format.
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?
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This book is fantastic the author can take you on the journey of a young girl living in Iran in the 1600's in a modern style...very enjoyable highly recommended
This was such a wonderful story that was left a bit mysterious to me since the author decided to leave the main character unnamed. It is funny, but I have to admit that I did not even realize that her name was not given throughout the novel until it was brought up in one of the discussion questions. We are taken on a journey of this innocent girl's life as she crosses over from a naive young lady to a strong and independent business woman.This book begins with the girl's life in a small village in Persia, living with her parents she is able to rely on them for her every need. As the only child of the family she has a very close relationship with her parents but seemed to bond closer with her father as he has taught her everything that she knows about making carpets that are beautiful to the eye. She could never foresee how her life would change forever after her father passes away.The mother and daughter try to stay on in the village that they have always known as their home. Life becomes quite difficult as they have no way to earn money so when food starts to run dangerously low they decide to reach out to distant family members hoping that they will take them in. Since they don't have a dowry to offer for the young girl they do not think that they have any other option.They are grateful beyond words when her father's brother in Isfahan decides to take them both in. Although they graciously accept his hospitality, they are quite disappointed when they arrive to learn that they will be living and treated like servants rather than family members. Knowing they do not have a choice in the living arrangements they accept the circumstances as they are.Since the mother and daughter are living at the mercy of the aunt and uncle they are very unsure of their future in the household. They become worried that they could possibly make one wrong move and be cast out into the streets with just the clothes on their backs. One of their only hopes was that the young girl would marry a successful man, but without a dowry that option was more than likely lost. The young girl found herself growing close to her uncle and gaining a respect for him as he worked for the Royal Rug Company and has offered to teach her everything that he could about carpet making. The poor girl had every reason for her feelings of frustration and deception when her uncle arranged for a less than reasonable marriage arrangement.I must admit that I never really considered the hard work that has gone into producing one of these beautiful rugs. Although most today are probably factory made, to think that something similar was handmade with two hands (or more, depending on how many people were working on the rug) and a loom amazes me. It has been said that these rugs tell their own stories, and I could see the stories coming too life through the rugs that this young girl created. She struggled with her rug creations as she did with her life choices and I enjoyed how the rugs were more beautiful as she gained wisdom.This was a beautiful story that brings to life another culture along with it's vivid colors. Not only can you see the beauty and vibrance of the carpets, but you also get a good sense of the tastes and smells of the ethnic foods. With themes of love, loss, beauty, perseverance and struggles, this book was enjoyed by my entire book group.
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.
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?
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.
This tale of a teenage girl in seventeenth-century Iran is both original and gripping. After losing her father, the narrator and her mother suffer hardships as they travel from their home village to the city and are treated as servants in the home of their relatives. Many misfortunes befall the two central characters, but these also allow the narrator to grow into a strong, skilled, and independent person who takes fate into her own hands. I really enjoyed the descriptions of carpet-weaving and the short stories within the larger novel. Overall, The Blood of Flowers was a good read and I am now more interested in Iran during this period.
a nice solid book with an unusual time period covered
I read this very soon after Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, as it seemed to be in the same vein. Pretty good book, but much preferred Diamant's.
A lush, historical romp. The imagery is vivid and the story very poignant and touching.
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.
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.