The memoir of Farah (Diba) Pahlavi, widow of the Shah of Iran, seems, at first glance, like a clone of Noor's bestselling Leap of Faith
. Both queens were intelligent young women when they met and married their older kings; both remain discreet about their intimate lives with their husbands (who both loved piloting planes and playing with their children); both immersed themselves, as new queens, in cultural programs and social betterment work for their people; and both end their memoirs shortly after the deaths of their husbands. The parallels are almost uncanny—at least until midway through Pahlavi's story, when the real differences emerge. In 1963, the Shah began his "white revolution" to modernize Iran by instituting land reform, women's rights and workers' rights; Communists and fundamentalist clerics vehemently opposed these changes. In Pahlavi's eyes, the monarchy stood for liberalization, even if its enforcement agencies were condemned worldwide for human rights abuses. To her, criticism of the monarchy only supported Khomeini's Islamic fundamentalist opposition. As the insurgency gained strength and the royal family weighed exit strategies, Pahlavi shouldered a new, personal burden: the Shah's concealed battle with cancer. Asylum offers were few. Sadat welcomed them to Egypt, but their stays in the Bahamas, Mexico, the United States and Panama were politically difficult. The Shah's medical treatments, meanwhile, were so bungled, so shaded by political maneuvering, that Pahlavi resorts to quoting extensively from one doctor's records. She ends her account with the Shah's death in 1980, their youngest daughter's death and the Iran-Iraq War, while Pahlavi's life has continued in Paris and Washington, DC. Readers seeking a female perspective on Iran's turbulent recent history will enjoy this candid, straightforward account. (Mar.)
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