CRY OF THE PEACOCK by Gina Barkhordar Nahai


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 A fast-paced, four-generation story of an Iranian Jewish family--a story told as a novel but with lots of real history thrown in by Iranian-born Nahai, now living in the States. Beginning with Esther the Soothsayer, who flees a sheikh's harem only to find her destiny in the Ghetto of Juvy Bar, in the city of Esfahan, the generations find themselves more and more intimately caught up with Iranian history. Their story, like that of Iran, is filled with brutality and destruction: child-brides who are raped; pointless executions of thousands; plagues, famine, pogroms; wars between neighboring states; and violent conflicts with the ubiquitous mullahs. The families are no less unkind to their own--a wife is kept prisoner; an only son is given to a father's mistress; and a jealous first wife kills a younger wife and mutilates her newly born infant. Esther herself was consulted by the then Shah, a tradition carried on by her granddaughter Peacock. A great beauty as well as soothsayer and jewelry merchant, Peacock befriended Reza Shah, emancipator of the Iranian Jews and founder of the Pahlavi dynasty, which was overthrown in 1979 by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Over the years, the family had prospered as Iran modernized; but when the Ayatollah took over, they lost everything and fled. Only the ancient Peacock remained as a witness and prisoner. Lots of period detail, vivid characters, and historical background make for an instructive read on a little-known era and place. A bit much for one book, but a timely subject.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-517-57479-9
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1991