Tuesday, March 2, 2010

REVIEW: Rooftops of Tehran, by Mahbod Seraji

Rooftops of Tehran, by Mahbod Seraji. Published 2009 by New American Library/Penguin. Literary fiction.

I asked for Rooftops of Tehran for Christmas and I'm glad I didn't wait any longer to read this captivating, magical and bittersweet novel of love, friendship and hope.

The story opens in 1973 Tehran, among a group of friends in their late teens, starting with Pasha and Ahmed. Pasha is in love with Zari, his beautiful neighbor, who is engaged to a young man known affectionately as "Doctor." Doctor is a slightly older student deeply engaged with left-wing political elements opposed to the Shah's autocratic rule; he is also a mentor to Pasha, who adores him almost as much as Zari. Ahmed, more outgoing and flamboyant, is pursuing his own forbidden romance with the charismatic Faheemeh and the four friends spend a summer together laughing and talking and deepening their bonds. Then Doctor finds himself up against the SAVAK, or secret police, and a brand-new kind of pressure comes to bear on the friends.

The narrative alternates between the summer and a time in the not-distant future when Pasha is a patient at a psychiatric hospital; that he doesn't know why or what has happened to him creates suspense and helps keep the narrative moving at a clip- and kept me turning the pages. It's basically a quiet story of ordinary people that Seraji tells and this device injects some drama. When the time lines come together, we find that things have irrevocably changed for Pasha and his friends. As the novel nears its conclusion, there are lingering questions and a twist that left me wondering what the future has in store for these characters- very real and likable people I'd come to care about.

I loved Rooftops of Tehran. I loved the characters and I thought that both the love stories and the political suspense was well-drawn and believable. The romance between Zari and Pasha is just so sweet and sad, and thankfully not without hope. It is beautifully written and has a real tenderness and affection towards its subjects- the characters and the country of Iran. I would give Rooftops of Tehran to smart teens as well as literary fiction readers, who would enjoy Seraji's beautiful descriptions, the characters and their relationships as well as the politics. I know I'll be re-reading this book sometime soon; it's really lovely and I hope you'll want to read it soon, too.

Click here to read my interview with author Mahbod Seraji!

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.

12 comments:

Blodeuedd said...

Nothing found at the library, but perhaps they will get it one day :)

Diane said...

This sounds wonderful Marie; thanks

Kathleen said...

I purchased this book from an indie bookstore on my business trip to Denver in October and have yet to read it. Thanks to your review I am now confident that I will thoroughly enjoy it once I get around to it on my huge TBR pile!

Zibilee said...

I have read one other book about Tehran, but it sounds very different from this one. I like the sound of this book and think it has a lot in it that would appeal to me. Great review, Marie. This book is going on my list. Thanks!

Aarti said...

I remember hearing about this book when it came out, but then it faded from my memory. You brought it all back. It sounds like a really lovely, quiet story. I really like stories about friends who grow and change together- this sounds perfect for that.

Vasilly said...

I like the sound of this book. I hope my library has it.It sounds like a great book to curl up with on one of these winter nights.

naida said...

this sounds great, I like that theres a sweet romance to it.

http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

bermudaonion said...

This sounds like my kind of book!

Dana said...

I read Reading Lolita in Tehran earlier this summer, and since then I've been interested in reading more about Iran - this one sounds great!

Literary Feline said...

Thank you for your great review, Marie. This sounds like a book I would really enjoy reading.

Serena said...

This was in my top picks for 2009! LOVED THIS BOOK, and I'm glad you liked it too.

On another note, I hope that you will consider joining my National Poetry Month Blog Tour in April. Here are the details: http://www.savvyverseandwit.com/2010/03/call-for-bloggers-to-celebrate-national.html

Anna said...

Glad to hear you loved this one. After Serena finished it, she handed me her copy and said I have to read it. Hopefully I'll get to it soon, but there's a few other books I want to read first. Thanks for the review!

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric