Summary and book reviews of Aria by Nazanine Hozar

Aria by Nazanine Hozar X
Aria by Nazanine Hozar
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  • Published:
    Aug 2020, 448 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Daniela Schofield
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About this Book

Book Summary

An extraordinary, cinematic saga of rags-to-riches-to-revolution--called a "Doctor Zhivago of Iran" by Margaret Atwood--that follows an orphan girl coming of age at a time of dramatic upheaval.

It is the 1950s in a restless Iran, a country rich in oil but deeply divided by class and religion. The government is unpopular and corrupt and under foreign sway. One night, an illiterate army driver hears the pitiful cry of a baby abandoned in an alley and menaced by ravenous wild dogs. He snatches the child up and takes her home, naming her Aria--the first step on an unlikely path from deprivation to privilege. Over the next two decades, the orphan girl acquires three mother figures whose secrets she will only learn much later: reckless and self-absorbed Zahra, who abuses her; wealthy and compassionate Fereshteh, who adopts her; and mysterious Mehri, whose connection to Aria is both a blessing and a burden. A university education opens a new world to Aria, and she is soon caught up in the excitement and danger of the popular uprising against the Shah that sweeps through the streets of Tehran. The novel's heart-pounding, explosive finale sees the Ayatollah Khomeini's brutal regime seize power--even as Aria falls in love and becomes a mother herself.

Nazanine Hozar's stunning debut gives us an unusually intimate view of a momentous time, through the eyes of a young woman coming to terms with the mysteries of her own past and future.

PROLOGUE
1953

Mehri opened her eyes. She was lying on a mound of carpets. "Does he look like his father?" she asked.

The old man, Karimi, was holding the baby. "She doesn't know?" he whispered, turning to his wife.

"She feels it," Fariba said, glancing at Mehri. Fariba was much younger than her husband, and she was Mehri's one friend.

"I can tell she doesn't know," Karimi insisted.

"Keep quiet. Are you massaging the baby like I showed you?"

"Yes, yes." He rubbed the baby's chest and back.

"What have we got ourselves into?" Fariba said. "Keep rubbing." She grabbed a chunk of meat from the cooler and put it in a frying pan. "It's for the mother. Not for you," she said to her husband. She glanced back at Mehri. "She ruined her life the moment she laid eyes on that man. I told her to work for you, here at the bakery, instead. But she said she'd rather be his wife. Now look what's happened."

After a minute, Karimi asked, "Wife, why doesn't the baby make a sound?"

"Because her eyes are blue...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Aria explores an array of experiences from a female perspective, including childbirth, love, marriage, loss, mothering, inheritance and abuse. The novel's third-person narrative allows for an ambitious blend of storylines and people, though some, such as Aria's childhood neighbor Kamran, seem to evaporate until they become useful again in the context of the growing political and social unrest. At times, the shift between storylines can be jarring, but the book is consistently engaging and fast-paced throughout. Aria is a complex chronicle of growth amidst burgeoning violence, uprising and a nation grappling with class differences...continued

Full Review Members Only (687 words).

(Reviewed by Daniela Schofield).

Media Reviews

The Observer (UK)
Nazanine Hozar's immaculate first novel follows a group of Iranians in the lead-up to the 1979 revolution and marks the arrival of a major new voice.

The Guardian (UK)
Hugely enjoyable.

Publishers Weekly
Hozar expertly weaves people in and out of Aria's life and crafts a living, breathing environment for her heroine to inhabit, and brings things to a charged climax. This will be hard for readers to shake.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Making an impressive fiction debut, Hozar creates a vibrant, unsettling portrait of her native Iran from the 1950s to 1981, a period beset by poverty and oppression, chaos and revolution...An engrossing tale that reveals a nation's fraught history.

Now Toronto
A page-turner...Through accessible language, [Hozar] vividly captures the feel of alleyways, courtyards, markets and overlapping experiences and faiths...Hozar spent a decade researching and writing Aria, and it shows.

Author Blurb Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid's Tale
A sweeping saga about the Iranian revolution as it explodes...A Doctor Zhivago of Iran.

Author Blurb John Irving, author of The World According to Garp
A feminist odyssey...A poised and dramatic historical novel with contemporary relevance.

Author Blurb Hisham Matar, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Return
A beautiful book set against the pains and passions of the Iranian Revolution...It is a book about a particular time and place yet also, and perhaps more importantly, about the common hopes and intimate longings of lives so forcibly invaded by national events.

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Beyond the Book

Social Class and the Iranian Revolution

Nazanine Hozar's debut novel Aria opens in 1953 Iran and concludes nearly three decades later in 1981, two years after the Iranian Revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic. Her narrative weaves together threads from across mid-20th century Iran's complex and diverse social, economic and religious groups. Class stratification during this time is central to the events of the novel and serves as the backdrop against which they unfold.

The revolution was rooted in Islamist ideology and figureheaded by cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Khomeini's revolutionary movement made three promises to the citizens of Iran: independence from the authoritarian state of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, freedom and democracy, and social ...

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