A Bitter Veil by Libby Fischer Hellmann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a 5 star book, a work of literary fiction, political thriller, near-current historical fiction. It had everything, drama, young love, revolutionary changes, iconic characters, and a reign of terror. But why??? oh why??? did the ending include a hokey murder mystery, stereotyped Scooby-Doo-like reveal of the villain with the last minute gunshot and the finger of blame pointed at our protag???
I walked away feeling like the book was ruined. The young complicated character, the one I was interested in following to the next book, reduced to an "and if it hadn't been for you, I would have gotten away with it" stick figure.
Okay, back to the first 91% of the book and the last 6%. It was lyrical, sweet, tragic, and pulsing with a mixture of romance, fantasy, and tension.
Nouri was Anna's dream come true, a handsome, charming man she met at a Persian bookstore. Their torrid love affair ended in a fairy-tale wedding and inclusion into a wealthy, loving, and accepting family. Anna's own family was broken rather early, and in Nouri's family and country, pre-Khomeini Iran, she enjoyed a honeymoon with a culture, people, and land in transition.
The book documents the way ordinary people adapt and are affected by traumatic change. There is denial, anger, bargaining, and stultifying acquiescence. Eventually, Anna's life is reduced to that of a Islamic wife hidden behind a chador, a virtual prisoner to her increasingly moody and fanatic husband. Her trials and escape were dramatic and filled with poignant detail. If I ignore the murder mystery subplot, I come away with a great sense of tragedy, sadness for Nouri's family and people, and hope for Anna, in that surviving, she would be stronger and able to forgive her husband for his weaknesses.
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