From its arresting first image--an emaciated horse chained to a treadmill and blindfolded against dizziness and distraction--this buoyant memoir re-creates Guppy's privileged Persian childhood in savory detail. Guppy--the London editor of Paris Review--grew up during Iran's westernization in a family favored by Reza Shah: her father was a widely respected philosopher who developed the Civil Code. Though hers was a traditional household with separate areas for men and women and a relaxed observation of Muslim customs, she and her sister were able to go to school, appear without the veil, and participate in some public activities. Her reminiscences provide an extremely valuable accounting of the period (e.g., the social, spiritual, and material consequences of new programs and practices) and a glistening introduction to an assortment of oddball relatives (highly flammable Uncle Alem, the Two Old Toads) and colorful holy men, friends, and neighbors. A gifted storyteller, Guppy vividly recalls the first two nursery-school teachers in Iran and an old nanny's version of sinister beasts like Pa-lees the foot-licker (who attacked desert travellers' feet as they slept). She also writes authoritatively on the advent of battery chickens, the impact of the Shah's water system, and the debilitating outcomes of opium addiction. Though Guppy's sympathies are clear (she hopes Khomeini will be merely ""a sad footnote in history books""), this is not a political outing. And though short chapters and a fluent style keep the pages turning, this is more than an exotic personal recollection: Guppy has captured a culture in transition with drama, imagination, and zest.