The Blood of Flowers tells the story of an unnamed country girl who lives in Iran in the 1700’s. When her father’s death leaves them destitute, she and her mother are taken in by a wealthy relative, an esteemed designer in the Shah’s carpet workshops in the city of Isfahan. Without a father to provide a dowry, she has no prospects for getting married–the sole respectable hope for a woman in this era. She is at the mercy of her fate; her position in her uncle’s household is tenuous. She is an impetuous girl whose only hope is her fledgling ability at carpet design.
The author, Anita Amirrezvani, artfully spins a plot that sucks the reader in. The conflict is gripping as the protagonist’s fate unfolds. Adding to the pleasure of the story are the sumptuous details about the era. The bathing rituals of women, the banquets, the intricate patterns of rugs, the silk finery of the rich and powerful colour in a culture and time that is faint in the minds of many western readers.
I am surprised that none of the reviews I read prior to reading the book mentioned that a solid portion of the book was about the main character’s sexual awakening. Discussing this in too much detail would spoil the plot, which is probably the reason for the lack of discussion.
I squirmed as I read about the initial sexual situation she found herself in. To my western mindset and sensibilities, it smacked of child abuse or even sex trafficking. She was, after all, a 15-year-old and the man was older. Her lack of power–the total inability to dissent–troubled me. That she wasn’t repelled by what was happening to her was hard for me to accept. I don’t, however, see this as a problem with the writing; it was more of a “TILT” due to cultural constructs. One last point on this theme of sexual awakening is that I found the protagonist’s musings about sex tedious and repetitive.
It was hard to read about the comparative freedom that men enjoyed–often at women’s expense. I admit to several moments of reflection in which I thanked the good Lord above that I live in a time and place that offer women equality and choice.
I listened to the audio version narrated by Shohreh Aghdashloo. Her husky voice is compelling, and once I adjusted to her lush accent, I was entranced by her reading. I believe she must be a native speaker of Farsi, so it was a treat to hear the proper pronunciation of words and places.
Learning about carpet design and peeking into a world I knew nothing of was a joy. The descriptions of the food, the customs, and clothing were fascinating. The Blood of Flowers is as rich with detail as it is thick with tension. A satisfying resolution makes it an enjoyable and educational read. Four out of five stars.
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