Saturday, 20 July 2013

The Children of the Jakaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani

Title: The Children of the Jakaranda Tree
Author: Sahar Delijani
Pages: 468
Price: Hardcover £7.92 Amazon UK

Release Date:  Hardcover - 18th June 2013
Publisher: Atria
Genre: Human Rights/Fiction/Middle East
Source: (e-copy)Publisher via NetGalley
ISBN: 9781476709093

Rating: 3 out of 5

The Children of The Jakaranda Tree is set in post revolutionary Iran between 1983 and 2011 and is the author's debut novel.  Sahar Delijani was born in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran and the anguish conveyed with harrowing vividness in the opening chapter is heart felt.  It is a novel about suffering and loss; self sacrifice and abject fear, of how the future generations are affected, and in light of the recent Arab Spring, of how nothing has really changed.

This faction novel opens with a harrowing scene in which we find Azar in the hospital of Evin Prison in the painful throws of childbirth.  Before she is finally allowed to give birth without kindness or dignity she must first undergo interrogation.  Without the love of a family member or father-to be to give her support she only feels fear, pain, anguish and the guilt of bringing her child into the world in such a way.  The anguish is made even more palpable by the sinister presence  of the 'Sister' who she fears will make her wait even longer before being allowed to see and hold her newborn.

The contrast of emotion following the birth is overwhelming with the excitement of the new arrival shared by the other women in the prison. They forget their misery and hateful grievances and give all they can to help her and the baby.  Everyone's life is made just that more bearable with the presence of new life and promise of the future the innocent one brings.

In another  powerful  scene Maryam, the wife of an executed prisoner, is told to collect her husband's belongings from Elvin prison.  Once home she finds that the belongings are not of her husband but those of another executed prisoner.  There is no body to bury or mourn.  There is no recourse, she cannot complain and must live with the pain of never knowing what actually happened to her husband.

I did feel that the book lost its way somewhat, it became too distracting and where I had initially wanted to know more about the prisoners and their families I ended up feeling removed and more of a voyeur.  I became confused and found it difficult to know who was who, or where they fitted in to the story.   A glossary would have been of enormous help to keep up with the multitude of characters introduced.   The numerous children, family members, cousins and friends, some of which play a minor part, in combination with numerous time period shift were so disorientating that I lost focus.

I really wanted to read the book  and it is a beautifully written and a poetic piece.  It carries an important message that should be heard.  Would I recommend this one? Most definitely as even with a 3 star rating which was a disappointment with the first half being so powerful and a potential 5 star it remains a powerful account of modern history. I would definitely look forward to reading more from Delijani.

 I strongly advise the inclusion of a glossary for future publications of this complexity.

Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.

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