Book Club: Persepolis

I found this review from May 2010 in my Drafts folder. It was whole and complete, but for some reason or another it remained unpublished.

It’s a great book, so I thought I’d post it as is. Better late than never, right?

As mentioned earlier, our book club pick for May was The Complete Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi.

Satrapi is an Iranian living in Paris, and Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel, originally published in French in two parts (as Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return), and is now available in a single volume.

Persepolis begins with her childhood in Tehran, and carries her story through the Islamic Revolution, and to her university days in Vienna. It’s a tale beautifully told with stirring images and humour.

I’d read a few pages the night before, and with six minutes left on the washing machine, I thought I’d read a few more while I waited for it to finish. Suddenly I realized I’d finished the book and it was well after one in the morning. Oops.

It was suggested by Carina, and further endorsed by Zaid, both of whom had seen the film version a while ago. It turned out to be the first book Zaid’s finished reading in time for book club.1

It was Sarah’s second experience with a graphic novel (her first being Maus), and I think she also really enjoyed it. The image on the left she found particularly stirring. A depiction of the people who were trying to leave a theatre while it was deliberately being burned, killing all those inside.

Not being from the Middle East (as one of our book club members is) or a country which occupied any territory there (my husband), I didn’t learn much – or anything, really – about the Iranian revolution in school. This opened up a whole new area of history for me.

What surprised me most was the level of American cultural influence. It’s something I’ve always resented here in Canada, but in revolutionary Iran it was gloried in, in a way I found difficult to reconcile with a decade of “Not available in Canada” appearing at the bottom of commercials on American networks in the 80s and even early 90s.

It’s an excellent book which opens up many avenues of conversation. In fact, much of our discussion danced around topics discussed in the book, without actually discussing the book itself, save for brief praises of the Satrapi’s artwork or portrayal of her experiences.

Verdict: We, of course, loved it.

Next month: June’s pick is Timothy Findley’s The Wars.

One of these days I’m going to do something really subversive and sneak in some poetry.

Note: For the record, as of August 2011, I haven’t managed this yet.

  1. Forgivable, this is only his second appearance. []