I have just finished The Blood of Flowers, written by Anita Amirrezvani.
The book is set in 17th-century Persia.
A 14-year-old woman’s prospects of marriage are ruined when her beloved father dies. She is alone with her mother, no family support and no way to survive.
With nowhere else to go, they are forced to sell the turquoise rug the young woman has woven to pay for their journey to Isfahan.
They hope to throw themselves on the mercy of the father’s brother who is a successful carpet maker, who serves the court of the legendary Shah Abbas the Great. The uncle and aunt are a respectable, and reasonably wealthy family – who can afford to take on the support of two family members.
The uncle and aunt offer them a roof over their heads. Instead of being regarded as family, they are treated as lowly servants.
The story is focused on the young girl, and how much she learns about life in Isfahan, how she develops as a carpet designer and weaver, and how she changes from a young innocent girl, to be a provider for her family.
Her family arrange a marriage – a sigheh (a temporary, renewable “marriage” which is essentially a form of semi-respectable prostitution) – which effects the girls outlook on the world, and also makes it almost impossible for her to enter into a legitimate marriage with a respectable man/family after that.
The book focuses quite a bit of time on how the girl improves her se.xu.al prowess to be granted a renewed sigheh — which I sort of found a bit disconcerting. Young girls being pi.mp.ed by their family, not really a favourite theme of mine I am afraid.
It did make me fall on the floor and give thanks I was not a woman in the Arabian world, who had to deal with trying to live and survive when everything (from religion, to culture, to employment) is pitted against women (consciously or not) being able to survive without a man as provider and protector.
I am sure this was not meant to be the point of the story being taken from the book – but I could not help thinking that it really was a cruel society for women and young girls if they did not have the protection of father/man in their society.
I enjoyed the book.
I did feel there was a lot of time and attention spent on how the girl became a better bride for her sigheh – which as said is really the exchange of her being a rich man’s prostitute for a few months and money changing hands. She does not benefit from this other than getting a bag of silver – which also does not go to her – but her family who decide how it is going to be distributed.
For all the “honour” this situation is pipped as being, it really is a way for parents/family to prostitute out their girls, so I did not really warm to this aspect of it.
A 3 out of 5 star sort of book.
The story is interesting, and on the upside does not have the “everyone is happy ever after”ending ….
“Anita Amirrezvani has written a sensuous and transporting first novel filled with the colors, tastes and fragrances of life in seventeenth-century Isfahan…Amirrezvani clearly knows and loves the ways of old Iran, and brings them to life with the cadences of a skilled story-spinner.” — Geraldine Brooks, author of March