The Girl From The Garden by Parnaz Faroutan
Genre: Literary Fiction, Women's Lives, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Ecco (Aug 18, 2015)
The Girl From Garden is the debut masterpiece from Parnaz Faroutan and another one added to my favourite reads this year. It is a powerful tale of desire, obsession, jealousy, power and vulnerability and ultimately the downfall of a wealthy Persian-Jewish family set in the early twentieth century.
Mahboubeh, the only surviving daughter of the Malacouti family, is an elderly woman who spends her time tending and talking to the plants in her garden. Mahboubeh drifts in and out of the past reliving her memories as a young girl in Iran and it is through her that we hear about a young married couple who are unable to produce an heir to ensure the continuation of the family line; and we bear witness to the tragic events and destructive forces that destroyed the family.
When Asher Malacouti's young wife fails to produce an heir and his brother's new wife becomes pregnant he decides on a course of action that will have disastrous consequences. The disdain and resentment that Asher displays toward his wife, Rakhel, will distort and shape her into a manipulative, vindictive woman. Rakhel will go to any extremes to maintain her status within the family including the use of spells and help of djinns in this highly superstitious, spirit believing culture.
In a male dominated and strict boundary controlled environment the young women jostle with one another in a struggle to reach the most beneficial status within the unit, sacrificing any chance of true friendship or bond, and is where betrayal, and manipulation are the unending driving force.
The Girl From The Garden is all the more poignant as life for young girls is pretty much the same today as it was then. Little or no alternative exists than to be married very young to produce children, and look after their husband and family, often in oppressive and restrictive marriages, as is the case for Rakhel.
The Girl From The Garden is a beautifully written piece of literature. Vividly depicting a world rich in detail with beautifully drawn characters who effortlessly come to life and lodge themselves into your mind.
I highly recommend The Girl from the Garden to anyone interested in learning about lives from a different time and culture and would generate lively discussion in book reading groups.
Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of The Girl From The Garden was provided by Ecco via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest unbiased review.
About The Author:
Parnaz Foroutan was born in Iran and spent her early childhood there. She received PEN USA’s Emerging Voices fellowship for this novel, which was inspired by her own family history. She has been named to the Hedgebrook fellowship and residency, and received funding from the Elizabeth George Foundation, among other institutions. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.