Reviewed by Danielle Pullen
Tehran, 1983. A city paralysed by fear, its people silenced. And the beating heart of the regime is Evin prison. Yet even within its walls three women dare to dream of a life beyond tyranny.
Azar gives birth to her daughter in captivity. One day the guards simply take her child from her. Parisayearns for her tiny son, growing up a few miles away but completely out of reach. And Firoozeh, broken by cruelty, has turned her back on everything she was fighting for.
But even in the most desolate places hope can take root . . .
Children of the Jacaranda Tree is set in Iran over the past 40 years. At its heart it is a consideration of the experiences of those involved in the political agenda of the time, with many families affected by the regime and lack of free speech. Speaking out can lead to imprisonment or death with many families simply told that their relatives were ‘missing’.
As, contextually, the novel was wide in scope, with three generations of various families included. This meant that there was a huge list of protagonists and, even though there was a list provided prior to the story, it was difficult to remember the relationships and history of the various characters and flipping backwards and forwards did affect the readability of the story. In addition to the confusion around character names, Delijani often changed the narrative voice used in each chapter and this meant that the reader was once again trying to fit events and relationships together which created a great deal of incoherence.
Despite the retrieval issues, there were some sections of this novel that were vivid and involving. For instance the opening paragraphs when Azar gives birth whilst incarcerated and the descriptions of the conditions and experiences of the prisoners within Evin jail. Unfortunately, however, the structure of the text felt more like a series of vignettes linked together in a forced way to create a novel with little narrative arc or well-paced plotting.
The book’s blurb compares Children of the Jacaranda Tree to The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. In terms of theme, there are comparisons but with regard to structure and writing style Hosseini’s work is far superior.
i'd like to thank Lucy at Orion Books for sending Danielle a copy of the book to review.