By Nazanine Hozar
In the fall of 2019, Aria appeared on the special “Heather’s Picks” list for Heather Reisman of Chapter’s Book Store. This is usually a recommendation for a good read so I was anxious to begin this 434-page historical fiction. I like to read books set in the Middle East as I feel it broadens my knowledge so I was intrigued that the author was born in Tehran but now lives in British Columbia. In addition, the cover quotes John Irving and Margaret Atwood as promoters. True to form, it has become a Canadian bestseller and an Amnesty international book club selection.
The story is the saga of Aria’s life which was told in four parts and interwove the characters in unexpected ways. The contrast between lower and upper socio-economic class lifestyles come to life in the context of the novel. In addition, the characters depicted life from a variety of religious perspectives, (i.e. Jewish, Christian – Armenian, Muslim). Naturally, the character names were Iranian, but I had extreme difficulty keeping the characters straight (eg Mehri, Maysi, Mitra, Roohangeez, Farangeez, Gohar, Kamran, Hamlet). In hindsight, I think I would have understood the subtleties and details of the story-line better if I had made a character chart.
This historical fiction gave me a more comprehensive understanding of the 1979 Iranian revolution. It emphasized a child’s perspective and the chaotic transfer of power from the Shah of Iran to Ayatollah Khomeini.