Rummanah Aasi
 There are two main sects in Islam, the Sunnis and Shia's, which I'm sure might look familiar to you. Sunni and Shi'a appear regularly in news about the Muslim world, but few people know what they really mean. It's important to note that both Sunni and Shi'a both share the commonality of the Islamic faith, but mainly differ in politics, particularly who leads the Ummah, Muslim community, after the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) died. There are other differences too, which are concretely highlighted at the BBC Religions website. These differences got me thinking when I finished Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani.

Description: In the 17th century Iran, the death of an unnamed female narrator's father forces her and her mother to work as servants in the home of her uncle, a wealthy rug designer in the court of the Shah, where she is able to develop her talent for rug design. With a bleak future ahead, she is forced into a contract and temporary marriage that leads to unexpected results. 

Review: After reading reviews of Blood of Flowers, I had expected the book to be an Iranian take on the Arabian Nights but what I read instead was something completely different. While there are short stories infused into the plot like the Arabian Nights, where Scherazade entertains the King in order to save her life, Blood of Flowers is essentially a story of a woman bullied by men and passively wonders from one place to the other in search of refuge. The book is infused with flowery prose that contradict its dark subject, giving it an exotic feel, which put me off and left me completely unsatisfied.
   The unnamed narrator is a female teen who is initially creative, vibrant, and a talented carpet weaver. Her opportunity to a good marriage is taken away by the death of her father. She and her mother are completely dependent upon the girl's well off uncle. Tensions arrive when the uncle's wife feels like the mother and daughter have over-stayed their welcome despite that they have joined the house's servants. New hope arrive for the teen when a letter proposing a temporary marriage for 3 months arrive from a wealthy businessman. Though the businessman will provide money for the daughter and mother, she must sacrifice her virginity to him and be at his beck and call.
  Though the author does a good job in establishing an atmosphere of medieval Iran and includes interesting tidbits of carpet making, her characters however were very one dimensional and flat. The narrator spends more time saying how determined she is to change her fate yet does nothing and succumbs to the temporary marriage very quickly, thinking it will solve all her problems in a snap. All the other characters are pretty one dimensional: the helpless mother, the mean aunt, the somewhat kind uncle who usually takes the side of his wife, and the self centered cousin. Fereydoon, the businessman, is pretty much a sex addict and nothing more.
   I was surprised to find out that the author didn't include any information about temporary marriage, which gets the most attention in the book, as her heroine tries to distinguish between lust and love. The "marriage" is shown as legalized prostitution because all the narrator does is have sex whenever she is called upon. I wondered if this is the author's (who comes from an Iranian background) perspective on temporary marriage. Since I was curious about the concept of a temporary marriage, which is foreign to me as a Sunni, I did some outside research and found out that temporary marriage exists for Shia's only and was mainly intended for soldiers or man who would be away after marriage for quite some time. The temporary marriage is treated as a real marriage given on a set time that is agreed upon by both spouses and can be renewed.
  I can understand how we are at times victims of our own environment, but I prefer characters who struggle and fit to make their lives better and not just sit there and take abuse. The narrator eventually realizes her mistake towards the end of the book, but I lost interest and skimmed my way until I found the next short story told in the book. Overall the Blood of Flowers is a forgettable novel that might appeal to readers who would like to know more about medieval Iran, but I much preferred the delightful YA novel Anahita's Woven Riddle by Megan Nuttall Sayres instead.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong sexuality throughout the book. Recommended for adults only.

If you like this book try: Anahita's Woven Riddle by Megan Nuttall Sayres, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseni, Norton Critical Edition of Arabian Nights by Daniel Heller-Roazen
5 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Hm. I think I'll pass on this one. I'm with you on characters who fight to change their circumstances, even if they only rebel in their minds as opposed to physically, as opposed to sitting by and letting themselves be victimized. I don't think this one is for me, but you wrote an outstanding honest review Rummanah!

  2. Great honest review. I think this isn't for me either.

  3. Safoora Says:

    I read this book a couple of years ago; my sister-in-law had recommended it to me and I actually liked it! I know that the narrator doesn’t really fight for herself and her right to be free, but in that time period and in that situation, what girl would? It’s unusual enough that she finds the courage, patience, and is determined to become a carpet weaver.
    From my understanding, temporary marriages done by the Shias, are mainly for sex.
    And if she accepts her fate and succumbs to what she has to do, it’s because she’s hoping Fereydoon will grow to love her and will marry her for forever – what’s wrong with that? I personally think she should had said no to the proposition, however she was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
    And there are plenty of characters in other books that “struggle” and “fight,” it was interesting to see another side.

    Since it’s been 2 years since I’ve read it, the details are quite fuzzy, but overall, I found the whole book from the time period to the atmosphere to the characters very intriguing.

  4. Safoora: I disagree. There are lot of female characters who fought back during that time, using their talents and skills. Heck, even Scherezade fought back with her skillful storytelling. I understand that she thought he would love her and marry her, but it was obvious he wasn't going to which got on my nerves. I just don't this book was for me. *Shrugs*

  5. rohit Says:

    Must be an enjoyable read The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and orignal, this book is going in by "to read" list.

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