Natasha Lavender 2 May 2012 - 11:57am
Translated from Armenian by Franklin Lewis, Pirzad’s delicately crafted novel sees a bored housewife searching for fulfilment in turbulent Iran.
Housewife Clarice Ayvanzian is living comfortably in the Iranian suburb of Abadan, but life is far from perfect. Her aloof husband would rather focus on dangerous political ideas than family life, while their son Armen has transformed into a temperamental teenager and their exuberant twin daughters take up all Clarice’s energy. Despite this, Clarice is content until a new family move in opposite. Mrs Simonian, a lonely aristocrat with a scandalous past, is insufferably rude, yet Clarice finds herself drawn to her son Emile, a gentlemanly dreamer who keeps finding excuses to drop round. Submissive Clarice is suddenly forced to struggle between her duties and desires. Set against the restless politics of 1960s Iran, this novel is eloquent, thoughtful and entirely mesmerising.
Pirzad skilfully takes a fairly simple plot and produces a compelling read. The story of Clarice is narrated in the first person, showing both self-critical and wistful sides to her character. Despite this personal insight, the novel does not become self-indulgent thanks to Pirzad’s subtle touches. These are also apparent in her handling of Mrs Simonian’s history, in the unvoiced feelings between Clarice and Emile, and in the imagery which pervades the book and makes it more than a simple tale of a housewife’s inertia. A charming family drama, this story of an Iranian housewife is also a study of human nature, marriage and the right to dream.