Friday, 3 July 2015

The Girl From The Garden by Parnaz Faroutan

The Girl From The Garden by Parnaz Faroutan
Genre: Literary Fiction, Women's Lives, Historical Fiction

Pages: 288
Format: e-ARC
ISBN: 9780062442864
PublisherEcco (Aug 18, 2015)
Source: Publisher/Edelweiss

THE GIRL FROM THE GARDEN’s lyrical prose and heartbreaking evocation of female struggle in a forgotten time and place is reminiscent of Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things and Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, but it is not just a novel about women. It is a story of Iran, of a lost cultural moment and identity that flourished before the wars and the reign of the shahs. And it is a story about family—about the things that draw us closer and perhaps inevitably push us apart.
My Thoughts:
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.

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