Friday, July 5, 2013

Assassins of the Turquoise Palace - Roya Hakakian

Assassins of the Turquoise PalaceThe biggest problem with Assassins of the Turquoise Palace is that I had no idea what it was about.  Having been raised in the good ol' US of A, I have been pretty much perpetually inundated with messages of "Iran is bad.  Bad bad bad."  While I doubt that's true in its entirety--few things ever are--there are a myriad of areas in which it does seem to have merit.  For example, the Iranian government's ordering of the killings in this book.  That wasn't exactly cool.  But what I was left wondering, for the entire book, was why it was ordered in the first place.  I think it had something to do with Kurds.  I don't know much about Kurds, pretty much just that they're a group of people in the Middle East who don't have a country of their own, much like the Roma, or the Jews before Israel was created, or the Palestinians today.  I don't know why the Iranian government wanted these particular Kurds dead.  Or were they Kurds?  Was that ever said?  I think it was mentioned that they supported an independent country for Kurdistan, but just because they supported it doesn't meant they were Kurds themselves.

You might see why this book left me a little confused.  Parts of the book also rambled or jumped around a bit too much; I have never seen more pagebreaks in my life, I swear!  It made following the multiple characters a little more difficult than I would have liked.

Also, despite the book being entitled Assassins of the Turquoise Palace, very little time is spent talking about the Turquoise Palace, the assassins, or even the assassination.  The focus is on the 90's-era trial of the men accused of killing several Iranian activists in Berlin.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love me a good trial.  I am an avid watcher of Law & Order (but only the episodes with McCoy, because he is a badass in the courtroom) and I take law classes for fun at my university.  And I do think that the trial and everything surrounding it was written very well, and was very easy to read; no slogging through legal mumbo-jumbo required.  But, if I'm picking up a book called Assassins of the Turquoise Palace, I really do expect the focus to be somewhat on the assassins.  I would have liked that story.  How did these people get to be killers, anyway?  It's entirely possible that book can't be written, because of a dearth of sources or something like that, but I think it would have been a more compelling read.  Not that a quest for justice is un-compelling, but... I don't know.  It just wasn't what I thought it was going to be, and what it was wasn't enough to make up for that.

One more thing.  While the writing is very detailed, which is what makes it so readable, I'm skeptical of how accurate it is.  Including dreams and feelings can be done in a nonfiction book through detailed interviews, but that would be very detailed indeed.  I'm skeptical if, at times, Hakakian isn't speculating and putting her own words or feelings into the mouths and hearts of the people of the book.

And can we talk about that cover for a second?  It  doesn't influence my opinion of the book, but man, that is some of the worst photo-editing I've ever seen.

So, lacking some information that made it a bit hard to understand, with a bit of a jumpy structure, it was a hard book to really get into.  While its actual topic was well-written, for the most part, it isn't a book I would pick up again.

2 stars out of 5.

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