Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rooftops of Tehran - Mahbod Seraji

6001011Rooftops of Tehran is the story of Pasha, a 17-year-old Iranian, and his best friends as they go through about a year in Tehran in the 1970s.  Pasha and his friend Ahmed spend lots of time on the roof of Pasha's house, joking and talking about life and Ahmed's crush, and later on Pasha's own crush.  Pasha is in love with girl-next-door Zari, who is engaged to Doctor, a revolutionary young man whom Pasha greatly admires.  Revolutionary activity is on the rise at this time period, and everyone is terrified of SAVAK, the secret police force.

The first half of the book was just okay.  It's about Pasha and his friends, including Zari, as they go through a summer and grieve the loss of someone close to them.  The first half concludes with a catastrophe that completely overturns everything Pasha had planned for his life.  It's also filled with snippets of life in Pasha's alley, like soccer games and incidents at school.  This part of the book, while it had its moments, was overall boring to me.  I understand its purpose in the buildup to and contrast with the second half, but it just didn't grab me.  This part is also cut with "interludes" every couple of chapters, which detail Pasha in a mental hospital trying to piece together what happened and why he is there.

The second half is Pasha trying to recover from his experience and move on.  This half was truly beautiful to me.  I think Seraji did a beautiful job of depicting Pasha's grief, his distance from everyone and everything around him, and how he copes with his new world.  It was wonderfully written, overall.  I suspected the ending was coming from pretty much the first chapter in the second half--which isn't good, because I never saw the climax of the first half coming.  I was actually a little let down that Seraji didn't have some twist at the end, because the ending is hinted at all along.  While the ending was good, I think it could have been better if Pasha had been forced to actually deal with something rather than just having it handed to him again.

The character development in this was great on all fronts, and I got a really good feel for life in Pasha's alley.  I think the whole setting was done very well.

Overall, an above-average book, but not an absolutely fabulous one.  I doubt I'll remember it in a year or two, but it was a pleasure reading now.

3.5 stars out of 5.

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