Monday, April 19, 2010

Review by JD: Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji


(Left is softbound/right is hardbound)

  • Rooftops of Tehran
  • by Mahbod Seraji
  • ISBN: 978-0-451-22681-5
  • Pages 345: paperback
  • New American Library/Penguin Books, 2009
  • A gripping novel – a romantic story set in harsh Middle Eastern times.

John’s Thoughts:

It’s the early 1970s and in Iran the Shah is coming towards the end of his reign. For the population at large the end cannot come soon enough as they live under the tyranny of the Shah’s rule and the savage secret police that enforce his regime. Meanwhile in a reasonably affluent neighborhood in Tehran a teenage boy, Pasha, is going through adolescent growing pains, besotted by the girl next door and guilt-ridden as she is engaged to his hero, the learned and independent-minded ‘Doctor’.

As the plot unfolds you get to experience the very strong family bonds that tie together Persian culture, and in particular Pasha’s developing relationships with the girl next door, Zari, his father, and his best friend, Ahmed. There are laughs aplenty, particularly caused by the high-spirited and rebellious Ahmed, but the whole neighborhood is dragged into misery as the secret police targets anyone who doesn’t conform to what they believe is right. It’s a downright scary portrayal of life under a brutal and heartless regime.

For me this was a bit of an odd book. There is so much about it that is admirable, educational and enjoyable. I learned a lot about a country and a culture of which I knew little, and Seraji populates his book with rich and interesting characters. You also get an insight into the somewhat schizophrenic attitude of Persians towards the United States (I liked the interview with Seraji at the end of the book). But personally I found the romantic side of it just a bit too much, and ultimately that detracted from my enjoyment of the book.

I really wanted to rate this book more highly, but in truth for me personally this was a 3 ½ star read (which is still a good rating). If you like a romantic novel that has a gritty and realistic setting, I‘d highly recommend Rooftops of Tehran. And my thanks to Charlie, whose review of this book led me to seek it out.


Here is a link for more information about the author - Mahbod Seraji at the book’s website.

Amazon purchasing information links for US/UK/Canada.

As usual John will be addressing the comments for this review. Thanks for reading Layers of Thought.


Hannah Stoneham said...

Sounds fascinating - a shame that you didn't enjoy it more but I do really enjoy a novel that opens a window on another culture.

thanks for sharing


John D said...

Hi Hannah,

Thanks for the comment. I did actually enjoy it, but when I was part way through the book I thought it was going to be at least a 4-star read for me. It didn't quite get there, but that's a comment on me more than it is the book itself.

It is fascinating to get insights into other cultures.

Charlie said...

I'm glad you folks are back safe and sound, and once again I'll extend my condolences.

Your review was excellent John with great detail. I'm sorry that the romance part was off-putting to you, but I guess everyone isn't a sloppy old Romantic like me. Don't take that as a criticism because it's not.

And thanks for the link.

John D said...

Hi Charlie,

Thanks for the kind words and the comments. I'm glad that I read this book, so I will continue to pillage your reviews for ideas on what to read next!

Right now - I have just jumped into a hard-core Sci-Fi novel which looks very promising.

ThePageTurner said...

Thanks for your review John. This is a book I've been considering and now will put on my list of to-reads. I'm not much for the romantic either, however any eye-openers to other cultures I find fascinating.

John D said...

Hi Rose,
Given what's happening in the world right now it's too easy to demonize somewhere like Iran, so it is really good to get a view of the regular people and the culture - which are so far removed from the international politics. I hope you enjoy it.

Serena said...

I really loved this book.

John D said...

Hi Serena,
I'm glad this one was such a big hit for you. It almost was for me too!

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