Wednesday, June 13, 2012

4.5 stars for Things We Left Unsaid (Pirzad)...and a quick status update

I confess...I think my new medicine is playing with my brain.  I saw several comments from folks who said they got "fuzzy brained" for a while when first adjusting to it.  I have only been taking one dose a day and doing that at night, but I'm pretty sure that's the case for me too.  One night, I tried to read when I couldn't sleep and just couldn't focus well at all.  A bit nervous about adding an A.M. dose tomorrow...it'll be a week at two doses and then I'll go to three where I'll stay.  Almost everything I've read swears the side effects do go away and people were glad they stuck it out.  I can't tell yet if it is helping, but I definitely plan to stick it out.

I do, however, want to write up a review now.  I usually like to wait till I have two, but I'm worried I'll "lose" my thoughts, especially since my current read is a bit complex with shifting time periods and focal characters that all overlap/interrelate (is that a word?).  I am enjoying it, but the prior book definitely deserves not to be lost...

I was a Goodreads giveaway winner for this recently released translation of a novel by an Iranian-Armenian author.  It is set in Iran in 1962 and focuses on a town built around an oil company and an Armenian community with it's own social groups, religious institutions (notably, everyone has Friday off because it it the day of worship in the country but it is not the day of worship in the characters' religion), and schools.  The main character is Clarisse, a wife and mother to a teenage son and younger twin girls.  Her mother and sister (who is perpetually looking for a husband herself) are frequent, usually unannounced, visitors to her home.  The book opens when the children bring home a new friend who has moved into a neighboring home with her father and grandmother.  As Clarisse gets to know her neighbors and navigates her changing community (we see hints of a women's movement), she begins to question her life and her marriage, wondering for what seems to be the first time if she is happy and fulfilled.  

I greatly enjoyed this book.  In many ways, the basic story of a woman questioning her life, a life she's just lived for many years as a wife and mother without really examining her own satisfaction, could be set anywhere.  However, the culture definitely runs throughout and I enjoyed the glimpses into a different society.  The Armenians in Iran are very much a subculture and they generally only interact within their own community.  The community in the book is also very much built around the oil company, it is a more institutionalized version of the company towns we see in the U.S. with housing and transport built for workers and with different neighborhoods for workers and management (again, something seen in many U.S. towns).  It isn't a major focal point, but there are hints of politics such as when Clarisse wanders into a speech about women's rights (she's drawn to it but also very uncomfortable) and her concerns that her husband's political interests might be dangerous.

Through a good portion of the book, it was a hinting at being a 5 star read for me.  As it progressed, I got a bit frustrated with Clarisse and I felt like I couldn't really relate to her sudden discontent.  I felt like she was a bit dramatic at times, almost acting like things were tragic.  I don't want to spell out more detail since it might be spoiler-ish and think the disconnect may be due to cultural/temporal differences.  Despite that issue, I very much enjoyed the book and give it 4.5...rounding down just b/c I'm stingy with putting 5.  I enjoyed the writing voice, though I never know how much of that to attribute to a writer and how much a translator influenced a book that originated in another language.

FYI --  There is a useful appendix in the version I have that explains some elements such as public figures, cultural observations, and even foods that an American reader might not recognize.  I found it helpful to actually read through this section all at once (stumbled upon it when I looked to see how many pages were in the novel, an odd habit of mine) and then consulted it a couple of times as I read. 

2 comments:

Annabelle said...

I hope the adjustment goes well! I had one medication some years ago that made me so mentally hazy that I thought it was a fine idea to drive 50 miles home from work reading a book...

clg1213 said...

that is both hilarious and terrifying! though maybe you were just ahead of your time given what people do behind the wheels these days!