Archive for January 8th, 2008


I recently finished reading Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran. It originally caught my attention because of its title. I love pomegranates; I to eat them fresh in season and any type of food that’s cooked with pomegranate paste. I picked it up and sure enough the author is Persian…and the title refers to the same pomegranate soup that I grew up eating. The plot sounded interesting: three sisters flee Iran after the revolution and settle in Ireland and open a Persian café.

I loved the style in which the book is written; each chapter begins with a Persian recipe. The book evolves around food and cooking. You can totally tell that the author has a love affair with the culinary world. I enjoyed the way that various Persian dishes are introduced and the background that is offered about them. Most importantly, I loved how the sisters are able to carve a place in the Irish village people’s heart through food that is made with love and care.

I also really enjoyed the language of the book. It is written in a very poetic style, which is often noticeable in Persian writers. I loved the colorfulness of the vocabulary used throughout the book. I love many of the dishes that she mentions in the book and while reading I have craved every single one of them. There is definitely something special about the protagonist and elder sister Marjan and the passion with which she has fined tuned her craft as a chef. I liked, the way she was described and I could easily imagine her moves while cooking in my mind while reading. I think few authors are able to create a character that is able to evoke such feelings for the readers.

With all of this said, there were a few aspects of the book that I could have done without. In my humbled opinion Mehran spent too much of her time talking about politics and obviously reflecting her opinion of the pre-revolution Iran. I have noticed that in the past few years there have been many Iranian authors who have taken this path in their books, and frankly speaking, it has gotten old for me. The concept of “Iran was not cared for by the Shah and people were happy that the revolution took place and they thought things would change for the better” concept has been beaten to death. Seriously, let’s think about this for a second, if things were so bad and miserable for people in Iran before the revolution, why did everyone leave after the revolution and not before?

Anyway, I did a little research on the internet to see if I could find out a little more about her. I read a few interviews, it turns out she was born a couple of years before the revolution. She admittedly states in one interview that she left Iran when she was really young and she doesn’t have any memories. So the political references are all based on research that she did while writing the book and family stories. I think that’s one of the things that turned me off about the book half way through. I felt that she could have spent more time focusing and evolving the characters that she regularly mentions instead of going into politics. Also some of the stuff that she mentions are a little off the wall, and totally strange. I understand this is fiction, but still.

The ending left me disappointed. I think it is because it felt like it was an unfinished story. There was no climax in the conclusion for me. While reading, I contemplated giving the book up, the only reason I kept on reading, was a) I am always optimistic that things will get better and the plot will get better as the story unfolds, and b) I enjoyed reading about Persian food and the way Mehran explained the various dishes.

I would have enjoyed learning more about the sisters, especially the way they related to each other and worked through some of the unspoken issues that all three had gone through, perhaps see the middle sister Bahar fight her demons and find herself and happiness in their new environment throughout the book. Most importantly, I would have loved to see a better description of how the sisters’ new friendships in their small town were deepened.

I also read on the internet that this is Mehran’s first book. She is currently writing her third book and the second one Rosewater and Soda Bread, which is a sequel to this book, will be available in early 2008. I am looking forward to reading the second book!

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