Email this review


A grim and angry first novel about the oppression of Iranian women in the year following the fall of the Shah. Rawlinson follows the dismal fortunes of five representative families. Roya Gabayan is the wife of Masoud, a Moslem carpet-dealer, and mother of daughters Soraya, a student, and 13-year-old Soheila, and son Hussein. Roya had joyfully marched in a demonstration for the new, promising regime, and later--with 15,000 women--is petitioning for their share in the ""freedom"" of the revolution. These women will be jeered at and stoned. (Masoud, one of the hecklers, feels ""cleansed of lewd thoughts"" by hurling objects and abuse.) Roya wears a chuddar, but has had dreams of education and a new freedom for her daughters. But Soraya will be murdered by her brother, and young Soheila forced to marry an ancient, randy mullah. Meanwhile, Theresa, English wife of the architect Fereydoun, happy that her children and their two grandmothers have escaped to England, is pregnant--while her husband is in jail, planning buildings that ""conform to every aspect of Islam."" Theresa is in the safe haven of the house of that selfless, decayed gentlewomen, Mrs. Emani, whose sullen son has also escaped to England. Then, too, once at Mrs. Emani's house was Shirin, of the Department of Social Work, who will face a firing squad with the small Jewish child Fariba. Throughout, the author attempts to monitor the erosion--by fanaticism--of basic human decency and family feeling, lake Nazism, mob excess corrupts the disaffected young (Hussein treasures his photo with gun: ""This was life. He was a man""). There's occasional offstage commentary by a misty figure who's first seen as a pilot escorting in the Ayatollah, then as an apologist for the new regime, finally as a sacrifical victim. Presumably, he's a kind of sociological/metaphysical barometer. Hardly a pleasant tale. But, however real it is, it's one that could do with a deeper human dimension of character beyond the sensational pepper of shock and horror.

Pub Date: March 4th, 1986
Publisher: St. Martin's