The Stationery Shop of Tehran #BookReview

Sometimes I wish I could flip back the calendar to a time when there was no social media, no bookstagram, no goodreads.

I wish I could feel again the anticipation of opening a new unknown book; the excitement of picking one up simply because the title sounded good or the cover was enticing or because a friend mentioned it and finally, I wish I could feel again the pure thrill of stumbling upon a gorgeous read.

Of course, one also had to put up with the duds but that made the good ones that much more precious.

The Stationery Shop of Tehran by Marjan Kamali is a good read but I’d heard/read so much about it that I found it underwhelming.

Let me first tell you what it’s about:

Young Roya meets Bahman in a quaint little stationery shop and falls in love with him. Despite opposition from Bahman’s mother they get engaged. 

Meanwhile, Iran is in the midst of political turmoil. A coup is underway to oust the Prime Minister.

And then, Bahman who is politically active, disappears. However, he continues to correspond with Roya through letters secreted between pages of books with the help of the owner of the stationery store, Mr Fakhri.

Finally, one day he writes to Roya asking her for a rendezvous, planning to get married in secret.

Roya waits for him in the city square even as a riot starts up. Bahman doesn’t come. Later, she receives a letter from him calling off the wedding.

Heartbroken Roya channels her energies into her studies, moves to the US and finds love and marriage.

Decades later, 70+-year-old Roya stumbles upon a stationery store that reminds her of the store of her teens.

At the heart of the book is a love story

And a simple one at that. The first part, where Roya and Bahman meet and fall in love, is delightful, redolent with the fragrance of new love and the joy they find in each other egged on by Rumi’s soulful poetry.

Without mentioning spoilers, let me just say that the breakup was a let-down. It was difficult to believe that both Roya and Bahman gave in to it. 

The other disappointing part was the mention of the political upheaval in Iran for it was just a mention, nothing more. I had expected something in-depth like The Book of Fate.

What I loved

That said, there were many other things to love in the book including some unforgettable heart-warming characters. I loved the gentle Mr Fakhri, owner of the stationery shop. His story was much more believable. 

I would have liked some more descriptions of his stationery store given that it played such an important part in the book.

Roya and Zari’s sister-love was endearing. Zari was so real, bickering and squabbling and giving Roya a reality check whether she wanted it or not. That’s exactly what sisters are for.

I liked Roya’s husband, Walter and thought he got a rather raw deal.

Most of all there was FOOD!

I spent time reading and re-reading the food talk. I read and I googled and drooled over the pictures. Iranian cuisine takes familiar Indian ingredients and puts them in unusual combinations crafting amazing dishes.

Tahdig rice was such a scrumptious idea, a little like the part burnt rice at the bottom of the pan. I could feel the tang of dried limes in gormeh subzi. Pomegranate and walnuts came together with chicken in a surprising combination in this stew called khoresh fesenjan. The sweet sholeh zard pudding sounded a little like our kheer — rice and sugar with rosewater, saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, and almonds.

A treat, most certainly.

While the book fell short in areas it was most spoken about, I still ended up loving it.

Last thought: Not earth-shattering, but a decent enough love story.

8 Replies to “The Stationery Shop of Tehran #BookReview”

  1. I have seen this book around on social media several times. The book’s name as well as the cover page came across as attractive to me but I never thought of picking this one to read. Going by your review, I can safely put a rest to the idea of reading this one. I cannot do with just another story of love and separation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am not sure I would like to read a story on love and separation, but the food could tempt me to pick up the book! I too love reading about food in books. It makes a story that much more, umm..palatable!? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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