Cover image for The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree
Physical Description:
245 p. ;

On Order

R.H. Stafford Library (Woodbury)1On Order
Lake Elmo Library1On Order




From the pen of one of Iran's rising literary stars, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is a family story about the unbreakable connection between the living and the dead.

Set in Iran in the decade following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, this moving, richly imagined novel is narrated by the ghost of Bahar, a thirteen-year-old girl, whose family is compelled to flee their home in Tehran for a new life in a small village, hoping in this way to preserve both their intellectual freedom and their lives. But they soon find themselves caught up in the post-revolutionary chaos that sweeps across their ancient land. Bahar's mother, after a tragic loss, will embark on a long, eventful journey in search of meaning in a world swept up in the post-revolutionary madness.

Told from the wise yet innocent gaze of a young girl, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree speaks of the power of imagination when confronted with cruelty, and of our human need to make sense of trauma through the ritual of storytelling itself. Through her unforgettable characters, Azar weaves a timely and timeless story that juxtaposes the beauty of an ancient, vibrant culture with the brutality of an oppressive political regime.

Author Notes

Shokoofeh Azar moved to Australia as a political refugee in 2011. She is the author of essays, articles, and children's books, and is the first Iranian woman to hitchhike the entire length of the Silk Road. The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree , originally written in Farsi, was shortlisted for Australia's Stella Prize for Fiction and is her first novel to be translated into English.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This challenging debut by Iranian writer Azar, forced to flee to Australia in 2011, tells in dreams and fantasies the story of one family during and after the Islamic Revolution, which overtook the country in the last quarter of the 20th century. Thirteen-year-old Bahar narrates from beyond the grave, weaving a phantasmagorical tale that follows her father, Hushang, as he leads his family away from Tehran and their old ways, abandoning rugs and books and intellectual pursuits deemed dangerous by the new Islamic regime, to the small town of Razan, where he hopes to protect them. Propelled by fairy tales of jinn and the dead, the novel meanders from Bahar's own death in a fire set by Islamic thugs to the disappearance, torture, and death of her brother, Sohrab, through the mental struggles of Bahar's mother, who climbs greengage plum trees, and beautiful sister Beeta, who turns into a mermaid. Azar's florid style emulates the rich storytelling tradition of bygone Persia, redolent with Zoroastrian lore and mired in magical vegetation "containing a thousand memories," clearly meant as a bulwark against the oppression of the present day regime. But the promise of the voice is weighed down by clunky writing, rife with repeated and awkward phrasings. Azar's dense family saga is animated by characters who face terror heroically, but it's undercut by the unpolished prose. (Jan.)

Booklist Review

Although the page facing the title of Azar's first novel to be translated into English clearly states, Translated from the Farsi, the linguistic enabler remains anonymous; the publisher's official line is, the translator of this book has asked not to be named out of fears for his/her safety. Author Azar is no stranger to danger, having escaped to Australia as a political refugee in 2011. Her fiction rings too true, bearing witness to the heinous atrocities suffered by bewildered everyday citizens in Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution that overthrew the monarchy and installed Ayatollah Khomeini's brutal regime. The titular, albeit mournfully ironic, enlightenment happens to Mom at 2:35 p.m. on August 18, 1988, atop the greengage plum tree at the exact moment when her son, Sohrab, is hanged without trial and his body is about to be dumped into a mass grave with hundreds of victims of the same injustice. Sohrab is her second murdered child, the first having been Bahar, burned alive at 13, whose death doesn't prevent her from existing among and communicating with the living. The future of the family's surviving child, Beeta, remains threatened. Despite the relentless tragedy, Azar's narrative exudes fairy tale charm driven by moments of deep connection that ultimately celebrate human and humane bonds unbroken even in death.--Terry Hong Copyright 2019 Booklist