Booker International 2020: The Enlightenment of The Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar
Book 9 and this time RachelO was the one to take it for the team..
Details from Booker Website: Set in Iran in the decade following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, this moving, richly imagined novel is narrated by the ghost of Bahar, a 13-year-old girl whose family is compelled to flee their home in Tehran for a new life in a small village, hoping in this way to preserve both their intellectual freedom and their lives. But they soon find themselves caught up in the post-revolutionary chaos that sweeps across the country, a madness that affects both living and dead, old and young.
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree speaks of the power of imagination when confronted with cruelty, and of our human need to make sense of the world through the ritual of storytelling. Through her unforgettable characters and glittering magical realist style, Azar weaves a timely and timeless story that juxtaposes the beauty of an ancient, vibrant culture with the brutality of an oppressive political regime.
Shokoofeh Azar moved to Australia as a political refugee in 2011. She is the author of essays, articles, and children’s books, and is the first Iranian woman to hitchhike the entire length of the Silk Road. The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, originally written in Farsi, was shortlisted for the Stella Prize for Fiction in Australia and is her first novel to be translated into English.
Rachel’s Thoughts: An epic, sprawling story in just 270 pages, telling the history of a family, a village and a country, Iran, in the time since the 1979 ‘Arab Invasion’ that changed everything. This is a world where the living live alongside their ghosts and jinns, where stories unfold inside stories – and they matter – and where so much has been lost.
It took me a while to get into the flow. The writing, often gorgeous, can be an effort to get through at times. The plot takes you off through so many branches – literature, culture, politics, history, romance, mythology – it really is a feat to distill so much into one short space. The narrator’s sister, Beeta, and Mum, Roza, felt like the most developed characters, and their stories moved me. The narrator herself, however, is a difficult being to pin down, and maybe that’s why I didn’t fall head-over-heels for the book as a whole. Overall, though, this is a book I’m glad to have read, and one that without doubt will stay with me.
Writing quality: 4/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: 1/2
The Eighth Life 18.5
Memory Police 15.5
Faces on the Tip of my Tongue 14.17
Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree 14
Mac and his Problem 12.5
The Discomfort of Evening 11
Hurricane Season 9.75
Have your read this one? Tell us what you thought of it in the comments