Let’s talk about sex . . . and the disappointments of men.
In her previous pair of graphic novels (Persepolis, 2003 and 2004, whose acclaim helped to heighten the recent push to further legitimize an always somewhat maligned field), the young author told the autobiographical story of her unsuccessful life in Europe before being forced to return to her native Iran, and the culture clash that ensued. This time, Satrapi keeps to her earlier themes of autobiography, Iranian womanhood and its conflicts within a traditional society being encroached on by Western ideas, while providing a somewhat lighter framework. Structured more as a casual conversation, a coffee klatch among the girls, Satrapi eavesdrops on her grandmother and relatives and friends as they talk about being women and, more specifically, about men. It’s refreshingly surprising from the get-go, as Satrapi introduces her grandmother as an elegantly made-up grande dame, an old woman who just happens to be a lifelong opium addict and who encourages Satrapi to close her eyes more—all in order to have a drugged look that would be seductive for men. Placed in charge of the all-important samovar, Satrapi listens as the women sip their tea and talk, because as her grandmother says, “to speak behind others’ backs is the ventilator of the heart.” In these anecdotes, men are uniformly imbecilic, or simply clueless, as witnessed by the story of the non-virginal woman who took the grandmother’s advice and, on her honeymoon night, placed a razor blade between her thighs so that her husband would think he’d broken her hymen. Things didn’t go well. More laughs are to be had, though often bittersweet, in the other tales in which women find themselves stuck between a patriarchal tradition and the desire for love and freedom, though nothing is made out to be quite so simple as that.
Lighter in subject matter than her previous work, Satrapi keeps things semicomical, even when relating matters of severe heartbreak, and her dashed-off drawings (with their slightly childlike expressions) help matters along.