The Washington Post (08.07.07)
“Anita Amirrezvani’s first novel is about the costs and consolations of beauty, and is itself so picturesque that it often seems a striking variation on its own theme…Enduring and dynamic, [Amirrezvani’s] living pictures turn a conventional historical novel into a more rarified object, like a fine, old carpet.”
San Francisco Chronicle (06.10.07)
Everything about Iran-born, former Northern California dance critic Anita Amirrezvani’s first novel is meticulously designed: its nine-year creation; its hypnotic cadence and considered approach to plot and characters inspired by Iranian tales and its immaculately researched historical detail, down to its unnamed narrator. It’s all crafted, as the author’s note indicates, “in tribute to the anonymous artisans of Iran.” Beginning with and framed by real and imagined Iranian and Islamic fairy tales, the novel’s form is itself homage to past raconteurs and storytelling traditions. Even before the main story is under way, it’s clear that The Blood of Flowers isn’t just any novel.
USA Today (06.18.07)
What an achievement. Iranian-born California journalist Anita Amirrezvani spent nine years working on her first novel, The Blood of Flowers, and the result is a passion-filled, exotic delight.
Associated Press Review
At times, it seems The Blood of Flowers is too complex, what with themes ranging from carpet-weaving to age-old Iranian traditions to the oppression of women. Yet, like the most prized Persian rugs, it all fits together beautifully.
In her debut novel, The Blood of Flowers, Anita Amirrezvani travels back in time to 17th century Iran, where she unfolds a story about the place of women in Islamic society. It is part historical fiction, part subtle feminist treatise, part soap opera.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (06.10.07)
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch can’t contain its excitement over Anita Amirrezvani’s The Blood of Flowers: “A novel that breaks new literary ground…a mosaic of threads stitched and woven together so finely that the reader cannot help becoming transfixed!”
2007 Summer Books
For Borders’ Ann Binkley, The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani (June 5) set in 17th-century Iran, is her No. 1 novel—“the most beautiful book, bar none.”
Anita Amirrezvani’s vibrant debut follows the fate of an ambitious girl in seventeenth-century Persia (Little, Brown).
Debut novelist Amirrezvani delicately weaves this sumptuous tale of female fortitude and ingenuity in seventeenth-century Persia. When her beloved father dies unexpectedly, the marital hopes of a 14-year-old girl are prematurely dashed. Bereft and impoverished, the girl and her mother are forced to move from their village to Isfahan, where they become servants in the house of an uncle. All is not lost, however, since the uncle is a favored rug designer in the court of Shah Abbas the Great. Although she is forced into a less-than-desirable temporary marriage contract, she learns the carpet trade, blossoming as a clever designer and talented knotter. Interwoven with traditional Iranian folktales, as well as fascinating details of the art of the Persian rug, this shimmering fable also owes a significant debt to 1001 Arabian Nights.
Publishers Weekly Review (2.12.07)
In Iranian-American Amirrezvani’s lushly orchestrated debut, a comet signals misfortune to the remote 17th-century Persian village where the nameless narrator lives modestly but happily with her parents, both of whom expect to see the 14-year-old married within the year. Her fascination with rug making is a pastime they indulge only for the interim, but her father’s untimely death prompts the girl to travel with her mother to the city of Isfahan, where the two live as servants in the opulent home of an uncle—a wealthy rug maker to the Shah. The only marriage proposal now in the offing is a three-month renewable contract with the son of a horse trader. Teetering on poverty and shame, the girl weaves fantasies for her temporary husband’s pleasure and exchanges tales with her beleaguered mother until, having mastered the art of making and selling carpets under her uncle’s tutelage, she undertakes to free her mother and herself. With journalistic clarity, Amirrezvani describes how to make a carpet knot by knot, and then sell it negotiation by negotiation, guiding readers through workshops and bazaars. Sumptuous imagery and a modern sensibility (despite a preponderance of flowery language and schematic female bonding and male bullying) make this a winning debut.
Kirkus Reviews (3.15.07)
Long ago in distant Iran, a poor village girl with a gift for carpet-knotting suffered many setbacks on her journey to womanhood and self-fulfillment.
Stories-within-the-story, and richly colored glimpses of Isfahan society; both high and low, as well as much detail on the business of designing and creating carpets, swell the pages of Amirrezvani’s novel, a devoted tale of ill fate as portended by a passing comet. The nameless teenage heroine, a favored only child in a tiny community, suddenly loses her father and then her dowry, forcing her to relocate, along with her mother, to the city, to live under the protection of a relative, Gostaham, who works as a master in the Shah’s carpet-making workshop and permits his niece to watch and learn while he works, even though, as a female, she will never be able to take up a job alongside men. She catches the eye of Fereydoon, a wealthy horse-trader’s son, but being too lowly to become his formal wife, is forced instead to accept a sigheh—a secret, three-month, renewable contract with him. Fereydoon is an indifferent lover until she learns to please him, but then the situation darkens when he takes for his proper wife her closest friend. The headstrong heroine, devoid of love, friendship and true security, decides to end the sigheh, but her rashness results in her and her mother's expulsion onto the streets. Hunger, illness and beggary follow, but the girl learns wisdom and responsibility, regains Gostaham's favor, becomes carpet-maker (with her own all-female workshop) to the Shah's harem and looks forward to finding another of her own choosing.
A lavishly detailed debut, in which some of the simple values of a folktale are woven together with richer (and more modern) women-centered life lessons.
Library Journal (3.1.07)
This first novel by dance critic Anita Amirrezvani is narrated by a nameless teenager whose life in 17th-century Iran is derailed by misfortune following her father’s death. With no means of support, she and her mother move to the city of Isfahan to live as servants with relatives. There, despite the obstacle of gender, the young woman learns the art of carpet design. An even greater hurdle is her poverty; dowryless, she is pressured into a sigheh, or temporary marriage, in which the woman offers sexual favors in return for money. The story of the plucky narrator’s rocky road toward independence is stirring and surprisingly erotic, as are the folktales narrated by her mother. The way these twin narrative strands eventually converge is especially satisfying. While some of the characters aren’t as developed as a reader might desire (especially Fereydoon, the “temporary” husband) and the story doesn’t always feel that it takes place 400 years ago, the main character is as complex and interesting as the patterns she weaves. Recommended for all libraries.
—Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood SC
The art of carpet weaving is not used decoratively, informatively, or even metaphorically, as has been suggested by some reviewers. Indeed it plays a structural as well as an instrumental role in her story, functioning just as the art of illustration and miniature did in Orhan Pamuk’s celebrated novel My Name Is Red.
—Mina Siegel, IranWrites blogger
“This debut novel from Anita Amirrezvani is simply enchanting.”
—Bethanne Patrick, Publishers’ Weekly Blogger
“It’s rare that I have only good things to say about a book, but with this debut, The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani, I couldn’t say enough of them.”
“I can’t recommend this book highly enough!”
“Fascinating details on the art of carpet making are weaved through the novel—what goes into the design, how a choice of colors should be made, and the sheer time and effort required in knotting a rug with nimble fingers. The art of storytelling is also interwoven in the form of seven tales (five adapted from traditional stories) that enrich and brighten the main pattern of the storyline. I enjoyed The Blood of Flowers very much for its Iranian background, for its young heroine’s joy in art, and for the manner in which she learns that she can take charge of her own life and tell her own tale.”
“The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani uses words to vividly paint a picture of 17th century Iran. The plot moves at a fast pace and draws the readers in. I could not lay this book down. This book has it all—a wicked aunt, a kind uncle, and a loving but poverty-stricken mother. The cover is beautifully done, hinting at a sensuous plot. The narrator, while never named, comes to life on the pages of this magnificent piece of art. I felt that while this novel is considered fiction it also hints at history and could be based on a true story. I highly recommend The Blood of Flowers to fans of fiction and history.”
“It is this spiritual journey that lies at the heart of this fascinating and beautifully modulated narrative.”
“The Blood of Flowers has much going for it, sumptuous imagery, a touch of the exotic, interesting descriptions of carpet-making and—at least for those with Western sensibilities—sympathetic protagonists.”
“An engrossing and entertaining read, the novel illuminates and brings to life a time and place unknown to most of us.”
Reviews from Australia
“With more twists and turns than a tawdry Spanish soap opera, as well as spellbinding prose to bewitch you, this is an absolute winner.”
“This novel is an easy, compelling read. Sensuous and alive with Eastern promise.”
“Amirrezvani’s novel is woven almost as tightly as one her narrator’s carpets. A great read.”
“It’s a lively [story], told in a beautiful and mesmerising way.”
Sydney Morning Herald
“Vivid stories converge into a sumptuous tale.”
“…a haunting tale.”
“…hard to put down.”
Melbourne Herald Sun (4.28.07)So smoothly does Anita Amirrezvani weave her tapestry of ideas that her rigorously researched tale of tragic beauty seems effortless.
Yet nine years of slog, including three extended research trips to Iran, have gone into the tight narrative that was such a hit at last year’s London Book Fair.
The Tehran-born, California-based Amirrezvani, in her debut novel, gives us the literary equivalent of fine carpet-weaving, which it takes her protagonist a near lifetime to master.
Her stories are layered, her motifs steeped in historical relevance, her colours intricate, her mastery of space exquisite.
The parable-inspired tales within her tale—which honour the Iranian oral tradition—might slow pace in clumsy hands, but Amirrezvani only takes the reader deeper.
Historical facts underpin the devastating yet inspiring tale. A village girl is forced to move, with her mother to the carpet capital Isfahan. Her dad has just died suddenly as she was preparing for marriage.
There’s the historically accurate comet that foretells a tough journey for her after she is forced into a sigheh, a temporary marriage that still takes place in Iran.
A wealthy man signs her on for three months. This is extended into an erotically charged section of the novel before the nameless protagonist decides to quit and create the kind of life she wants.
She’s nameless because she could be any woman trying to find her place in 17th-century Iranian society.
Amirrezvani takes us into life in Iran from the inside—we bathe in the hammam hothouses, revel in its architecture and transporting fragrances, walk the streets of Isfahan in a chador and feel what it is like to be an invisible woman in a patriarchy.
The blood of flowers refers to the stirring tales behind the flower dyes that go into weaving works of art.
No wonder the book is hard to put down.