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by Anahita Firouz

Pub Date: Aug. 21st, 2002
ISBN: 0-316-60854-8
Publisher: Little, Brown

A luminous debut about a pair of star-crossed lovers in Iran during the last days of the Shah.

Mahastee Mosharraf is one of those hopeless, exquisite upper-class women whose sensibilities are refined out of all proportion to the venality of the world around them: Try to imagine a kind of Mideastern Nancy Mitford, or just about anyone from the pages of Edith Wharton. The heiress of an ancient Persian family, Mahastee moves through the higher—though not highest—reaches of Tehran society with her ambitious but rather gross husband Houshang, who runs a contracting firm and spends most of his time trying to win government concessions in the best Iranian style (by flattery, cajolery, and bribery). Mahastee is pretty sure that Houshang has a mistress, and she hasn’t let him touch her in years. When not gossiping at embassy parties, she works at a small economics institute, where she learns that the son of one of her co-workers has been arrested by the secret police, and she calls upon all of her considerable government contacts to find out where the boy is and what can be done to help him. In the process, she learns that he was involved in an underground Marxist revolutionary group, and she begins to enter this dangerous world herself in the course of her investigation. She meets Reza Nirvani, a childhood friend whose father worked as an overseer on the Mosharraf estate. A Marxist revolutionary himself, Reza is a complete opposite of Mahastee—but at one with her in his detestation of the Shah. The two begin a love affair that is all-consumingly dangerous at an equally dangerous time: the late 1970s, just as the Shah’s regime is beginning to crumble.

A well-crafted portrait of human love trapped in the vortex of history.