You may have heard of the film but this book is the story that inspired it.
Marjane Satrapi wrote this autobiographical account of her childhood in Iran during (and following) the Islamic Revolution. The child of wealthy Marxist parents and the great-granddaughter of Iran’s last Emperor, Satrapi – by her own admission in the comic – was more privileged, and liberal, than many others in Iran.
‘Persepolis’ charts different anecdotes from Satrapi’s childhood and adolescence – each like its own few-pages-long comic strip. The illustrations, all in black and white, are amazing. Her memories, told through the eyes of a child, are funny and startling in equal measure.
Charting the changes in Iran during the Revolution, Satrapi demonstrates how politics can impact on the personal. Many of the stories are about how Satrapi and/or her family tried to find ways of being true to themselves without being imprisoned by the radical religious police. As Iran, and its operations became increasingly strict, Marjan grew up and continued to be outspoken – sometimes with scary or amusing consequences. There are stories about things that we in the West take for granted: alcohol, make-up, running for the bus and rock music.
The second part of ‘Persepolis’ charts Marjane’s departure from Iran to Austria where she meets some very ‘interesting’ characters as well as going through some really harrowing personal times. Satrapi had a knack for understanding what it is to be an outsider, even in your own home.
Marjane Satrapi is a true hero – she’s an irrepressible spirit as well as being funny and entirely charming as a narrator. She never shies away from stories that will not necessarily paint her in a bad light but she is so honest that I couldn’t help but admire her.
‘Persepolis’ is an example of the ridiculous (the regime) and the sublime (the brave narrator).
This, Dan Smith’s third novel, is a departure from him previous two books. Usually set in hot, jungle climes, ‘The Child Thief’ is a historical thriller set in the Ukraine in the middle of a punishing winter.
This novel follows Luca – a war veteran – who sets out to save his niece from whoever has stolen her from their small village. Combining his determination to return his niece to her home with his skills as a sharp shooter, Luca doesn’t anticipate much of a battle. However, the child thief has other plans. Set to a backdrop of political suspicion and paranoia, ‘The Child Thief’ is a remarkable achievement: a cross between George Orwell and ‘The Road’.
The description of the landscape is beautifully detailed without being unnecessary. Smith’s exposition regarding the political situation is informative without being boring. This lesser-known historical conflict has some light shed on it whilst still maintaining the pace of the primary story.
Luca’s story is a demonstration of how the political and the personal merge. He is determined to bring his niece back to the village but all the while he must remain aware of the possibility that, while he is away, his village may be overrun by Soviet troops, making it impossible for any of them to return home.
‘The Child Thief’ is a study of guilt, family, what it is to be a hero and the psychology – and after-effects – of war.
This novel is atmospheric and taut, many scenes had me holding my breath with nerves while willing the protagonist to stay alive. This is an absolutely thrilling, heart-stopping read.
This is a short story of the author’s trip to Uganda in 2008; it’s part fact, part-embellishment. There’s travel, romance, friendships and inspiration.
Graham Taylor has an innate ability to convey a story with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. His story-telling is interesting and full of detail coupled with plenty of humour.
He is definitely one to watch.
Taken Nakhl, Oman. February 2012.
Mari Hannah’s debut novel introduces us to a new detective, DCI Kate Daniels. Kate is intelligent, gutsy and strong but someone’s out to put a spanner in the works of Daniels’s illustrious career. Almost a year after discovering a brutal double murder, Daniels is presented with the corpse of a familiar face but fails to disclose the connection – making everything even more complicated. A murderer is on the loose in Newcastle and it’s up to Daniels to stop the killer from claiming any more victims.
Mari Hannah’s writing is taut and intelligent, she keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the novel. The way in which Mari describes the characters gives the reader a great mental image of who she’s writing about. There’s an abundance of characters which just adds to the realistic feel of the piece. The snappy dialogue adds depth to the relationships between the officers conducting the investigation.
It’s fast-paced, gritty and realistic. It contains lots of information regarding police procedures but the information is always relevant to the story. The idea behind the crimes is highly original and, as a native north-easterner, I loved that the geographical locations were accurate.
In Kate Daniels, Mari has created a character that you want to know more about and I for one and am pleased that the second installment featuring DCI Daniels will be out later this year. Kate is not like any other female protagonist I’ve ever encountered and Hannah has really achieved something special in creating her.
Always mindful of the reader, Hannah has produced short chapters for bedtime readers who want to stop at the end of a chapter. However, the story is so good, you may find it keeps you awake all night!
A great debut from a writer with bags of potential.
Taken: Muscat, Oman. January 2012.