The Persian Bride

James Buchan, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $23 (352p) ISBN 978-0-618-06740-4
Garlanded with laurels from British reviewers, this novel by the British author of A Parish of Rich Women and High Latitudes certainly has many strengths: a wonderful sense of the sweet corruption of modern-day Iran, a supple and eloquent style and a story full of pain and longing. For an American reader, however, the apparent realism of many of the scenes and the strange narrative voice--carrying a kind of stoical madness--in which it is told create a jarring awkwardness. The narrator is John Pitt, a young English hippie who strays into Iran in the 1970s, begins teaching English in Isfahan and becomes hopelessly infatuated with Shirim, a beautiful 17-year-old who is the daughter of a venal air force commander closely connected with the Shah. The two run away together, find a hideaway where they can live for a time as a couple and eventually have a child. Pitt is then seized as an English agent when the Iranian revolution exiles the Shah, and suffers years of imprisonment, while Shirim disappears--perhaps also into an Iranian jail. For years, Pitt tries to learn about the fate of his wife and daughter, but eventually, resolved to die rather than continue to live his terrible prison life, he volunteers for the army. He is caught up in hideous carnage while battling the Iraqis, and later in Afghanistan, before the book winds to a touchingly bittersweet conclusion. Difficulty in identifying with Pitt, who seems in the early scenes sophisticated way beyond his years, remains a barrier to full absorption in the novel, brilliant and powerful as it often is. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/2000
Release date: 10/01/2000
Paperback - 344 pages - 978-0-618-21923-0
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