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.
From the back cover:
"A sweeping, compelling story which brings to life the Iranian Revolution, from an author who experienced it first-hand.
In the house of the mosque, the family of Aqa Jaan has lived for eight centuries. Now it is occupied by three cousins: Aqa Jaan, a merchant and head of the city's bazaar; Alsaberi, the imam of the mosque; and Aqa Shoja, the mosque's muezzin. The house itself teems with life, as each of their families grows up with their own triumphs and tragedies.
Sadiq is waiting for a suitor to knock at the door to ask for her hand, while her two grandmothers sweep the floors each morning dreaming of travelling to Mecca. Meanwhile, Shahbal longs only to get hold of a television to watch the first moon landing. All these daily dramas are played out under the watchful eyes of the storks that nest on the minarets above.
But this family will experience upheaval unknown to previous generations. For in Iran, political unrest is brewing. The shah is losing his hold on power; the ayatollah incites rebellion from his exile in France; and one day the ayatollah returns. The consequences will be felt in every corner of Aqa Jaan's family."