Marjan Kamali’s Tehran is a canvas of class hierarchies, rich cuisine, literary loves, and youth politics. Roya Khanom’s visits to the quaint stationery shop begin to take a turn when Mr Fakhri (the owner) introduces her to a young man who also frequents the establishment.
What starts out as a heady sense of love soon spirals out of control when on the day of their marriage, Bahman goes missing.
This has to be one of the best books I’ve ever read! The storytelling, the characterisation, the themes, the timing of it all – Marjan Kamali deserves an award.
Even to this day, just thinking of the author’s writing fills me with such joy. It’s melodious and soulful, imbued with vivid imageries of the land and the culture, and portrays each character with great precision.
As you probably know by now, I enjoy reading books that have a non-chronological narrative style. And this one came through with its dual-timeline structure.
The novel spans decades, weaving a heartrending story that captures Roya and Bahman’s first encounter during their youth and giving us a glimpse of the lives that their future selves lead over sixty years later.
In doing so, the author familiarizes us with the characters but also succinctly captures the far-reaching consequences of people’s choices.
I love what the stationery shop stands for. In a time as rife with political disturbances and extremist norms, the shop is a vehicle of change, a blanket of solace.
Mr Fakhri’s own storyline adds so much meaning to the place, and I couldn’t help feeling that if his actions had been any different, the stationery shop may probably not have the same nuance.
With as much detail and grace as the author has written this story, you’d think that it would be close to 1000 pages long; after all, it pursues the backstories of several characters and places them in consequential roles across the novel. But it’s a quick read owing to the lyrical nature of the writing.
From Bahman’s mother to Patricia, Zari to Walter, all of these character’s (no matter how frequently they appear in the book) have become some of the most memorable characters for me. Their individuality, weaknesses, strengths, and motivations were surprisingly etched with clarity.
A majority of the book is a disheartening rendition of people’s involvement in others’ lives. I just wished that situations had primed these characters to be a better version of themselves. But why the opposite works is that it is a realistic depiction of life – things don’t always go our way and there are likely to be a lot of obstacles in life.
There’s so much more I could talk about this book, and that still wouldn’t be enough.
I have become a fan of the author and will be auto-buying everything she writes. If you haven’t yet picked up The Stationery Shop of Tehran, give yourself a treat and read this outstanding historical fiction.