The Septembers of Shiraz is a poignant debut novel taking place during the worst years of the Iranian Revolution mingled with the war with Irak.
It depicts the story of the Amins, a Iranian Jewish family, whose life and all that they believed in falls apart when the father, Isaac, a successful gem merchant is arrested and jailed under the charges of being a not only a Zionist spy but also due to his supposed relations with the Royal family.
The story is seen through 4 set of eyes: Issac’s in prison, Farnaz his wife who is left searching for him with no idea if he is dead or alive and having to continue life, their 9 year old daughter Shirin who is stuck between childhood and adulthood with no step in between and Parviz the 18 year old son who has left for Brooklyn to study architecture. The latter’s character doesn’t really fit in the plot in my opinion and doesn’t bring anything to the story.
The Amins’ acute daily struggles are laced with deeper emotional and philosophical questions. Before their tragic separation, Isaac and Farnaz had reached a state of near estrangement: both felt their marriage had made them people they hadn’t wanted to be. To transcend their ordeals, each must confront what has transpired between them and what is still possible in the future.
Isaac and his son, in their very different contexts, are also forced to consider and question their secularism: Isaac because he is persecuted on account of an inherited religion he does not practice, and Parviz because he falls in love with his landlord’s daughter a Hassidic Jew.
The Septembers of Shiraz is also about a world and a way of living which has come to an end, about exile and rebirth, about giving up your beliefs and roots.
Sofer writes beautifully, her style is simple, sophisticated and restrained. Even though the plot can give way to desperation she doesn’t go for melodrama. The Septembers of Shiraz is miraculously light in its touch, as beautiful and delicate as a book about suffering can be.