Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Review: Cemetery of Dreams (S. Mostofi)

Title: Cemetery of Dreams
Author: S. Mostofi
Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 304
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Challenges: Middle East, PoC, Mystery and Suspense
FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review
Summary (from the back of the book): In the wake of the Iranian revolution and the hostage crisis, Arman seeks to avoid his country's political turmoil and focus on his own problems. His father, a former general under the Shah, is in the hospital. His American fiancee, Julia, the daughter of one of the hostages, is in hiding in his home and growing increasingly distraught as the crisis stretches on. But when a former agent in the Shah's secret police blackmails him into joining a CIA-supported coup against the new regime, Arman is drawn into the revolutionary vortex.

A fast-pace political thriller set against a finely detailed historical and cultural backdrop, this book shows lower-class Iranians who used the revolution for revenge against the upper classes, patriots who joined the revolution to end the Shah's tyranny, and the opportunists who were willing to turn any political upheaval to their advantage.

Review: I received an email from a representative of Emerald Book Co to see if I wanted to read and review this book since I am doing the Middle East Reading Challenge. I have become so wary of these requests, but something about this one intrigued me. I clearly remember the Iran Hostage Crisis, perhaps that's what initially drew me to this book. I remember the images on TV, the fear for the people's safety, the disastrous helicopter rescue efforts, the fact that some relative (sister?) of the Shah had a house in Santa Barbara at the time... it all seemed so close and yet so far away. Here was my chance to read more about it, even through fiction.

This is a work of fiction, but the author has a few pages at the back showing all the research she did in addition to her own personal connections. I believe much of the facts are true with the storyline as fiction. My only complaint about this book is also a comment on me: I wish there were a few pages before the story began giving some history about the Shah, the hostage crisis, who the Revolutionary Guards were, etc. I was a bit confused for the first 40 pages or so trying to keep it all straight and I think knowledge of the "facts" would help readers like me who are really interested, but don't have the background solidly in their minds.

Other than that I really enjoyed this book. The story was suspenseful, intriguing, and kept me up late last night to finish it. Once I had all the characters straight, I worried for them, hated some of them (there is some real cruelty in this book), and felt absolutely awful for others. There are people who sacrifice everything to do what's right and there are characters who you hope die so that their heinous crimes will end. The author really gave a great sense of what it was like for people on both sides of the revolution--the danger, the fear, and the risks. But, she also made sure that the readers sees that life goes on with love, lust, and moments of laughter in amongst the scary stuff.

If you are a fan of mystery/suspense books and have any interest in modern Iran, this is a great book to give you a sense of the urgency of the time (late 1970s to early 1980s).

Geography Connection:

I remember the hostage crisis I was in high school) and its impact on US politics: Carter losing the election and Reagan winning in particular. But, I was only 14-15 years old so I never got the finer workings of it all. Click to see my updated Google Map.

2 comments:

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This sounds like a terrific story Helen; thank you -- looking for something different.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Diane--I liked that I hadn't seen anyone reviewing this one yet and I enjoyed the book--2 good things!