This book had been on our wish list since 2005, unfortunately, it took a couple of years until it was translated, even though it was elected the 2nd best Dutch novel ever (after "The Discovery of Heaven" which we read in February 2004). It seems to always take ages to translate novels into English. Our Dutch member heard a lot about the novel in the Netherlands, even saw the author.
Even though this is not an autobiography, the author's life resembles that of his main character, e.g. he wanted to study literature but studied physics.
Everybody present liked or really loved the book, most really loved it. We liked to read about the symbols, grandmothers, place of women, warning against fundamentalists, fanaticism. The book is a good teacher. The novel contains a lot of information about Iran, immigrants, the political situation.
It is told on three different levels, mythical, mystical, actual. Many symbols. Each chapter is introduced by a phrase from the Koran, we loved that. Persians seem intelligent, educated, beautiful, elegant. It is a beautiful description of the sense of displacement and loss. The author shows life in different classes, the power of industrialisation, the power of the bazaar. This book definitely makes you want to know more about the topic.
It is hard to imagine living in the midst of the revolution, therefore this gives you a very good account. They had an ordinary society before, then everything went wrong.
Some were also more interested in the political aspects, communism, religious dictatorship, this book had it all. It also contains a lot of poetry which not all of us liked. We loved the description of people, society, history.
Apparently, Kader Abdolah suggests “My Father's Notebook”, he likes it better. He also writes a weekly article in the “Volkskrant”, a Dutch newspaper.
We discussed this in our book club in September 2010.