The Book of Fate #BookReview

Book: The Book of Fate
Author: Parinoush Saniee
Translated by: Sara Khalili

Young Massoumeh moves with her family to Tehran from the small conservative town of Qum. The older daughter from among five siblings (three brothers and two sisters), Massoumeh loves to study. Her father supports her, however her mysogynistic brothers and her mother are against it, only wanting her to get married. Insulting and hitting the girls of the family isn’t unusual.

Even with her limited freedom, modern Tehran, is exciting to Massoumeh. It’s here that she finds her best friend, Parvaneh, and also her first innocent crush.

Soon enough, her crush is discovered by her family. She’s beaten up mercilessly and married off to a man she hasn’t even seen.

Her luck turns when she finds that her husband is way more modern than her own family. He is a communist dissident struggling against the oppressive rule of the Shah of Iran.

He champions the equality of women and, to Massoumeh’s delight, he pushes her to further her studies. They have two sons and life seems good For a while but then her husband is found out by the Shah’s men and is caught and persecuted.

Left alone to care for her children Massoumeh soldiers along through the revolution. She finds a job to support her small family even as she continues to dream about finishing her University education. Even after her husband is released, life remains a struggle for her.

The Book of Fate is Massoumeh’s story as she navigates life in turbulent Iran.

My thoughts

Originally written in Persian, this book has been translated into a dozen languages. It was banned in Iran for a while.

The Book of Fate is as much a story of Iran as it is that of young Massoumeh.

The story of Iran

I was only vaguely aware of the history of Iran. The Book of Fate proved to be the perfect way to get to know it. Massoumeh’s fate is entwined with that of her country through her husband and her children.
There’s nothing poetic or romantic about the narrative. So if you’re expecting Shafakish descriptions you will be disappointed. The Book of Fate tells of life in Iran as it is without making it the focus of the book. Through Massoumeh we watch the Communists and the Conservative Islamic Leaders come together in the the revolution against the Shah of Iran. We watch as it becomes a success and Khomeini comes to power. And then we watch the crumbling of communist dreams and their terrible persecution under this new conservative rule. That is followed by the Iraq war.

Massoumeh’s character

I liked Massoumeh. She isn’t a revolutionary. She’d have been happy not having anything to do with the politics of the country. She doesn’t want her husband or her sons and daughter to become great rebels. She isn’t special or brave or heroic in a Joan-of-Arc kind of way. 

And yet she is. 

She is brave in an ‘every-day every-woman’ kind of way. She is modern in her thinking, in that she understands the importance of education, she understands the need for women to be independent. When her husband is taken prisoner she doesn’t mope around, she doesn’t reach out for help to either her family or her in-laws. She goes out and she finds work. She braves the jibes and barbs that come her way. And she takes care of her family. She is kind and thoughtful. And that is her strength. Her growth from a shy timid teenager to an independent woman was nothing short of miraculous.

She has flaws.

Of course she has flaws. Her upbringing and her years of conditioning hold her back. Like I said, she isn’t a revolutionary. She is conscious of what society thinks of her and expects of her, and she makes sure she remains a ‘good’ girl at all times.

To me, that made her relatable. I might not have agreed with her decisions (specially the ending of the book) but I could see where she was coming from.

This isn’t a book about the repression of women

A lot of reviews peg this one as a book on the repression of women in a patriarchal society. That would be true but only to a small extent. I like to think of it as a book about the triumphs of a woman in a patriarchal society. I’d like to see it more as an uplifting read than a heartbreaking one. Yeah there are heartbreaks, lots of them, and struggles too and yet I didn’t need to pity Massoumeh.

Last Thought: Read it for Massoumeh’s story and for a crash course in the history of Iran.

12 thoughts on “The Book of Fate #BookReview

  1. Dashy

    I’ve read another Iranian true story “Not Without My Daughter” by Betty Mahmoody. It was a heart wrenching read. Have you read it? It feels like this book is along the same lines. Will check it out. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      Oh I almost forgot about that one. Yeah I read it a long time ago. This one’s isn’t as dramatic but I liked the way Massoumeh’s story is interwoven with that of her country.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. Corinne Rodrigues

    Iran went downhill seemingly so fast. But the problem was the great disparity between the rich and the poor. I like the idea of an everyday heroine – seems so much more real. We have so many of them all around us.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      Yeah exactly. There are so many women who soldier along in the face of all kinds of adversity. The men go out and do great stuff and get loads of laurels while the women work at offices, run homes, keep together families, bring up kids and yet are often overlooked.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  3. Shalzmojo

    What a fantastic review Tulika – I am not a fan of political history or turmoil but the way its progressing in this book is very interesting. I like how some writers are able to enmesh their characters and the story with such a plot very well. Marking it for a further read 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      I’m not a history fan either but if the moment the history becomes the personal story it becomes captivating to me.

      Like

      Reply
  4. Sunita Saldhana

    Loved the review. I am going to add it to my TBR list. Why do I want to read it? Because of the way you have described Massoumeh’s character. I would really like to meet her in the pages of the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Say something.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.