Impressions off the back:
I feel this might be a book that focuses on language and vividness of the images it tries to invoke, rather than pace and quick flowing scenes. It is a tale of love – lost and found. It is set in a world on the brink of destruction – Iran, before a revolution. It promises to be an interesting read.
My thoughts on the book:
I got what I expected from the book’s back cover. Anahita Firouz delivers strong language right from the prologue, and it evokes images to the mind. Through her words, we can picture the scenes, the actions and feel we are part of the story. As a writer, I’ve always found first person narration challenging. Firouz takes that to a whole new level. Alternating chapters with voice, the story tells of Mahastee’s first love, Reza, the son of her family estate’s caretaker. The prologue speaks of their first moment of love, in Mahastee’s voice, before the first chapter comes from Reza’s voice twenty years after that, on an evening when he sees her again after that long gap. Each chapter is delivered with panache, excellently written.
What she does excellently well with language and bringing those images of Iran before the revolution to life, she sort of brings down with the complex linking of characters. The double first person narration, though done well, leaves one confused at times as to what is happening, and how will it all tie up together. The characters seem emotionally uncaring, detached from their lives and their past. This slows down the story to an extent that the reader doesn’t feel like continuing. It’s not boring, but at times, the story lacks a little substance.
The cover page has a quote review from the Daily Mail: “Elegant, aphoristic, and wise… A kaleidoscope of memory… The novel holds the reader steadily.” . I agree. This is Anahita’s first novel, and she succeeds in conjuring images of Iran before the revolution very well. She also manages to paint good character sketches and relations, like a high class person’s lack of respect for the lower class, the warnings of the lower class family not to expect anything out of a relationship with an upper class family, the extra-marital affairs and sucking up to higher authority people to get your way etc. It does hold the reader steadily. However, the characters seem emotionally out of it, and after a while, the reader starts to feel the same. This is the drawback that is the buzzkill to me.
Rating: 3 / 5
Title: In The Walled Gardens
Author: Anahita Firouz
Publishers: Back Bay Books
Reviewed by: Leo
Also for the First Reads Challenge at b00k r3vi3ews blog.