Sahar Delijani's Children of the Jacaranda Tree grabbed our readers' hearts and minds and didn't let go. Over half rated this strong work of fiction a 5. Here is what they say about this novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit:
Sahar Delejani has written a fantastic novel. It is gritty and emotional and hard to read due to the subject matter. At the same time it is uplifting and shows hope for a brighter future for Iran. The characters were well written and unforgettable - I will be thinking about Neda, Omid and Sheida for a long time (Susan R). What an amazing debut novel. While the story is heartbreaking in part, most of it describes the perseverance of the human spirit determined not to be destroyed even by those who will kill anyone who dares to question or speak out. Love, hope and resilience guide those who make a life in spite of the fear. A beautiful book (Elizabeth D). The most interesting idea I received from this book is that although revolutionaries may be killed, the revolutionary spirit cannot. Ms. Delijani makes this very clear as she weaves her story about everyday revolutionary participants, their fates and their next generations (Rita H).
Our readers were keenly aware of the autobiographical nature of Delijani's novel:
This is a compelling novel, and possibly more so because the author was born in Tehran and her family experienced the story first-hand (Joyce K). We have heard over a long period of time how the long battles in Iran have taken a toll on the country but this book tells us about its people. The book describes dissidents who were picked up, blindfolded and led out of their homes as their families watched, It took us to the jails where squalor and torture were everyday events. Some of the lucky prisoners were released after long prison terms, to families whose very own children didn't recognize them (Meredith K). Only rarely have I experienced in a book such pain and horror while at the same time experiencing such beautiful writing. Sahar Delijani has written a novelized version of three generations of her family in Tehran, Iran. Past and present are intertwined in extremely moving and vivid prose. I can only be grateful that writers such as Sahar Delijani are brave enough to enlighten me of the horrors that exist in so many places (Toby S).
Over and over again, our readers pointed out, not only Children of the Jacaranda Tree's riveting story, but also its gorgeous prose:
I can't believe how good this book is. So well written, so emotional, so informative. It is a story that was on my mind for a long time after I finished it. I enjoyed Sahar Delijani's descriptive phrases. One that I especially liked: " smelling of wood dust and expectation." (Suzanne G) I hope to see more books from this author with a talent for painting beautiful visuals through prose (Barbara O). This book, Children of the Jacaranda Tree captured my heart at the first paragraph and held it hostage until the very last line. The story of the women and children of post-revolution Iran was at times gripping and intense, and at other times sweet. I felt I was there with them, seeing and feeling what life was like for them in a city torn apart by extremists. I loved the writing. It was clear and descriptive and pulled me along to follow the journey of these women and children as they grew and matured. I highly recommend this book! (Nancy L) Delijani's writing is often lyrical, almost poetic, and although she is describing sometimes horrible events, the story is beautifully written. Delijani's descriptions of the settings are among the best I've ever read (Robin M). From the sadistic Evin prison to the family courtyard where the jacaranda tree bloomed with its beautiful scent, from political activists throughout three generations to political refugees, Sahar Delijani has brought them alive through her poetic words more evocatively than any movie could. As Delijani herself wrote, "Poetry is poetry only when it reveals the depth of your soul." She's left her soul on every page (Patricia S).
But beware, this novel is not for the faint of heart:
There are moments that were tough to read because of their violent nature. I felt these depictions were necessary given the subject matter and the violence in the book never feels trivialized nor gratuitous. Sahar Delijani has delivered a heartfelt, engrossing novel that will stay in the minds of her readers for a long time to come (Christopher R). The novel was challenging reading due to some of its emotional content, beginning with a mother going into labor in a van on the way to prison. (Ariel F). Although well written and beautifully descriptive, this was a hard book to read, full of sadness and oppression and sorrow for a once-great country that is now a place of violence, fear and religious extremism (Sharon B). There is never triumph, never the knowledge that there will be healing and time for new, more gorgeous memories to be birthed in the lifetimes of the characters - even those who escape for a time. Lives either imploded or expired and I had to live every one of them. I am blessed to have the choice to close this book and be grateful for my mundane, even slightly boring life where I have the freedom to live where I do (Yolanda M).
Who should read this novel?
I recommend this to readers who enjoy books about the Middle East and biographies/memoirs (Robin M). Such a personal look into these characters' lives motivates me to learn more about Iran. There is much here for book club members to discuss (Chris W). Readers interested in contemporary events will appreciate this book. This book is a welcome addition to any public or large academic library (Shirin M). This is a book that not only entertains, but also teaches about a culture very different from that in the United States. As our nations clash, this book helps us to have empathy for the citizens of Iran and for us to hope that in some way they can understand those of us who are the "ordinary" citizens of the USA. A book well worth reading (Lea Ann M). Several friends from my book club saw me reading Children of the Jacaranda Tree and are excited to read it too. (Jonna V). This book opened my eyes to Iran the way that Hosseini's Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns opened my eyes to various voices in Afghanistan (Amber B).
This review was originally published in July 2013, and has been updated for the June 2014 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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