The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani
Unabridged audio book, read by Shohreh Aghdashloo
After the unexpected death of her father, a fourteen-year-old village girl is forced to sell the carpet intended to finance her dowry. Faced with the very real threat of starvation, the girl and her mother travel to the city of Isfahan where they are taken into the home of their only living relative, a carpet-maker to the shah. Though she was the best knotter in her village, the girl realizes that she has much to learn. She prevails upon her uncle, who sees in her echoes of himself as a young man, to teach her his craft.
Completely reliant on the goodwill of the uncle and his wife, the girl and her mother are treated as servants. Much to her chagrin, both the girl's carpets and her virginity are used as bargaining chips and traded against future commissions. When the girl fails to see the precariousness of her situation and makes one too many costly mistakes, the damage is irreparable and she must finally take responsibility for her own fate and that of her mother.
The Blood of Flowers is a novel to be savored. Amirrezvani’s writing is sensual and her seventeenth century Persia vividly realized. She blends traditional Iranian folktales seamlessly into a first-person narrative, which is peppered with details on the art and business of carpet-making. The novel’s unnamed protagonist is naïve and headstrong, but eminently likeable. Despite making any number of impetuous and ill-advised decisions, readers can't help but sympathize with her.
Unlike many historical debuts, The Blood of Flowers' narrative is well-balanced: while the historical detail is integral to the plot, it never threatens to overwhelm the story itself.
Actress Shohreh Aghdashloo’s narration never detracts from Amirrezvani’s finely-wrought novel. In fact, her accent imbues the text with authenticity and her voice has a mesmeric quality that draws listeners completely into the story.
The audio version (a sample clip is available on the publisher's webpage) also includes an interview with the author, in which Amirrezvani answers a number of questions about the novel, her background, and her writing process. Of particular interest is the segment about Amirrezvani's decision to not to name her protagonist.
Read my review at Armchair Interviews...
This fabulous novel is on the suggested reading list for the Hidden Treasures read-and-review contest. Pick up a copy to read this summer!