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The Septembers of Shiraz Hardcover – Bargain Price, July 24, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 156 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sofer's family escaped from Iran in 1982 when she was 10, an experience that may explain the intense detail of this unnerving debut. On a September day in 1981, gem trader Isaac Amin is accosted by Revolutionary Guards at his Tehran office and imprisoned for no other crime than being Jewish in a country where Muslim fanaticism is growing daily. Being rich and having had slender ties to the Shah's regime magnify his peril. In anguish over what might be happening to his family, Isaac watches the brutal mutilation and executions of prisoners around him. His wife, Farnaz, struggles to keep from slipping into despair, while his young daughter, Shirin, steals files from the home of a playmate whose father is in charge of the prison that holds her father. Far away in Brooklyn, Isaac's nonreligious son, Parviz, struggles without his family's money and falls for the pious daughter of his Hasidic landlord. Nicely layered, the story shimmers with past secrets and hidden motivations. The dialogue, while stiff, allows the various characters to come through. Sofer's dramatization of just-post-revolutionary Iran captures its small tensions and larger brutalities, which play vividly upon a family that cannot, even if it wishes to, conform. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Dalia Sofer, who was forced to flee postrevolutionary Iran at the age of ten after her own father was unjustly imprisoned, captures her family's experiences in this moving, semiautobiographical tale. Citing Sofer's evocative prose, sensitive characterizations, and suspenseful plot, reviewers called Sofer's debut novel persuasive and memorable. Though she ruminates on themes of faith, love, and the heavy toll of political and religious oppression, Sofer's honesty and balanced outlook prevent the story from lapsing into sensational melodrama or lurid allegory. Her descriptions of torture, though vivid, are not gratuitously violent. A few small complaints included some contrived dialogue and Parviz's annoying self-pity, but critics agreed that these do not detract from an otherwise "powerful, timely book" (Rocky Mountain News).

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1St Edition edition (July 24, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061130400
  • ASIN: B0046LUDJC
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (156 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,538,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jonathan Groner VINE VOICE on September 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent first novel. Dalia Sofer tells the story of the Amin family, a wealthy Iranian-Jewish family caught up in the ugly repression that followed the overthrow of the shah, in a quiet, dignified style, with detail building upon detail. Jeweler Isaac Amin is snatched from his home and imprisoned by the Revolutionary Guards, for no other reason than the fact that he is affluent and Jewish. His efforts to convince his captors that he is no Israeli spy and end his Kafkaesque tortures and interrogations are described very convincingly.

Particularly notable are Sofer's efforts to portray the ideology of Amin's captors and their sympathizers and to give them a chance to speak for themselves. She does not countenance political murder, religious repression, or anti-semitism, far from it, and her sympathies are with the oppressed; but she does give her villains a voice. Why are some people the masters and some the servants? Was the Iranian upper class complicit in the repression conducted by the shah's goons before his overthrow? These are some of the questions that she asks and these help give the book considerable nuance.

I would have given this book five stars, but the ending failed to satisfy the emotional build-up of the previous 100 pages. The book seemed to peter out rather than to end in a meaningful way.
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I purchased this book after seeing positive reviews in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. This is one of the best books I've read, with tight yet lyrical language that enabled me, someone who's never been to Iran or been in a situation akin to that the Amin family faced, to enter their world and understand their changing feelings and actions. The characters were powerfully drawn, and the reader feels empathy for the dilemmas faced by Isaac, the imprisoned father, Farnaz, his somewhat estranged wife, Shirin, the daughter, and Parviz, the son so far away. And despite the tragic events, we see growth in how the characters see themselves and relate to each other. This book richly deserves the positive reviews it has received, and I wish Ms. Sofer a long and productive career!
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Format: Hardcover
This novel is a poignant tale of a family caught in the changing of the guard, transported into a world where their every move is suspect. On one uneventful day in 1981, after the Iranian revolution, gem trader Isaac Amin is arrested by the Revolutionary Guards in his Tehran office and transported to prison, where he is interrogated. As a Jew, Amin is immediately suspect, especially since his lucrative business takes him frequently to Israel. Now his entire world is threatened, the government suspicious that he is a spy for Israel. It doesn't help that Amin's brother has been smuggling alcohol over the border, in strict defiance of the law. Muslim fanaticism is on the rise, Isaac's family in the crosshairs, as Jews and because of their wealthy lifestyle.

While Isaac is left in a dank cell with other men, all to be systematically interrogated, he ponders the viability of ever leaving this place, let alone surviving the increasingly brutal interrogation techniques used to obtain the desired responses form the prisoners. Daily he listens to the firing squads, the moans from fellow prisoners who have been tortured and the muezzin's call to prayer. Regretting that he could not inform his wife, Farnaz, of his dire circumstances, Amin looks inward, revisiting the early days of their marriage, before they became careless of the relationship. Learning of her husband's fate, Farnaz is thrust into despair, fighting the depression that overwhelms her whenever she considers life without Isaac, navigating the days as if a sleepwalker.
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This is an incredibly powerful debut novel from Dalia Sofer. I had high expectations for this book after reading a very positive review by Claire Messud in the New York Times. Needless to say, "The Septembers of Shiraz" lived up to its advance praise and I highly recommend it.

The story centers on a Iranian Jewish family living in post-revolutionary Iran (1981). Isaac, the father, is a gemologist with a successful business. His life and that of his family is turned upside down when he unexpectedly arrested by the Revolutionary Guard and taken to prison. There Amin is physically, mentally and emotionally tortured for a confession about being a traitor and his connection to the deposed regime of the former Shah.

Meanwhile, Isaac's family, Farnaz (wife), Shirin (9 year old daughter) and Parviz (college student living in Brookly) struggle to cope with the imprisonment of Isaac. Sofer wonderfully captures the hopes, fears and challenges each of them face through their distinctively different perspectives and situations. Sofer does a wonderful job going far beyond the expected stereotypes to paint the complex nature of human relationships -- how these relationships exist in times of "peace" and how they exist in times of turmoil. Especially powerful is Sofer's exploration of Farnaz's relationship with their housekeeper Habibeh. Her son used to work for Amin and is now part of the Revolutionary Guard.

"Septembers of Shiraz" causes us to reflect on several sweeping themes -- how complicitous is an individual who benefits from a situation without directly supporting that underlying situation? Is it possible for power not to corrupt those when they go from ruled to ruler? What is one's connection to country vs. religion?
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