Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Book Review: The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali

Book: The Stationery Shop

Author: Marjan Kamali

Publisher: Gallery Books/ Simon and Schuster

Pages: 320

Read on: Kindle

Read in: 5 hours

Plot Summary: Roya is a dreamy, idealistic teenager living in 1953 Tehran who, amidst the political upheaval of the time, finds a literary oasis in kindly Mr. Fakhri’s neighborhood book and stationery shop. She always feels safe in his dusty store, overflowing with fountain pens, shiny ink bottles, and thick pads of soft writing paper.

When Mr. Fakhri, with a keen instinct for a budding romance, introduces Roya to his other favorite customer—handsome Bahman, who has a burning passion for justice and a love for Rumi’s poetry—she loses her heart at once. And, as their romance blossoms, the modest little stationery shop remains their favorite place in all of Tehran.

A few short months later, on the eve of their marriage, Roya agrees to meet Bahman at the town square, but suddenly, violence erupts—a result of the coup d’etat that forever changes their country’s future. In the chaos, Bahman never shows. For weeks, Roya tries desperately to contact him, but her efforts are fruitless. With a sorrowful heart, she resigns herself to never seeing him again.

Until, more than sixty years later, an accident of fate leads her back to Bahman and offers her a chance to ask him the questions that have haunted her for more than half a century: Why did he leave? Where did he go? How was he able to forget her?

The Stationery Shop is a beautiful and timely exploration of devastating loss, unbreakable family bonds, and the overwhelming power of love.

Things I Liked: 

1. First up, stories set in Iran are some of my favourites that world literature has to offer. Simply put, its a part of the world I love visiting- via books, both fiction and non-fiction. So this book had my attention for that reason to begin with. Then the title drew me in like no other. I mean, come on, Stationery Shop! Me, an avid stationery love/ collector / enthusiast / hoarder couldn't possibly pass this book up. And then there is the premise itself. This book had me at hello, if I ever being cheesy that's what I'd say. 

2. The writer does an amazing job start to finish, whether it's writing about Iran at the cusp of change and revolution or the people living in this volatile world. She manages to effortless take us there, right at the centre of their world and make us a part of everything they are feeling. The same intensity and fervour is felt through the pages when the action moves to America. Everything from the people, place and time is spot on and I had feared that once our protagonist moves to the States, my interest would vane. But it didn't. I am happy to report that this book and the writer does ample justice to both these worlds and the people in it. Also, I really enjoyed the writing. 

3. This book is filled with very real, lovely characters- the ones you love and the ones you despise- they're all real, flawed, layered. The author does a fantastic job of pulling you into Roya's world and life in 1953- her lovely parents, her precocious younger sister, Bahman! I really liked Roya and her parents- they are such nice, decent, kind folk. Bahman is also nice- very dreamy- the kind of boy a young 17 year old may fall head-over-heels in love with! Even our stationery shop owner- Mr. Fakhri- is a nice man with a very interesting backstory and his own complicated motives for doing certain things. I could go on and on about the characters, but suffice to say, be it in Iran or in the US, this book is full of lovely characters. 

4. In 1953, we get to meet so many people, who had such optimism for Iran's future as a democratic nation. I loved that we get to learn so much about that turning point in Iran's history as viewed through the eyes of a young girl, in love for the very first time- the hope, the activism, the fear. I loved the juxtaposition of Roya's personal turmoil with that of Iran's that summer. It was a simple yet effective way of showing how politics affects each of our normal, little lives. 

5. This book has 2-3 different storylines/ love stories and each of them are really interesting. I don't want to list out which those are as that would be slightly spoiler-y! You should read the book and find out! This book is lovely and heartbreaking and tender all at once! My sister and I loved this book! 

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. Just one- I wish we'd known what became of Roya's parents. They were such a big part of her life and she and her sister were so close to them, but once both sisters move to the US, there is not much that is shown of them or what became of them. This is tiny gripe, not a big deal at all! 

Rating: 5/5 

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