Cemetery of Dreams and I got off on the wrong foot. Too many characters, all coming at me too fast. It was an overload of information, filling the pages, filling my brain. In this unfamiliar territory*, I was confused by what was happening. My knowledge of Iran and the revolution is quite scanty**. So yes, I am ignorant, shamefully so. Hopefully some of the non-fiction reading I’m doing this year will amend some of that.
Anyway, as I was saying, Cemetery of Dreams didn’t settle too well with me at first. I felt the need for a cast of characters, and I had to start making notes in case I got confused further down the road. Things began to settle down, but only after 40-odd pages, which is perhaps too long for some readers. The first chapter, the prologue, starts with general Hamid Rahimi, in prison for the murder of Commander Shirazi, meeting a lawyer, Dr Reza Ketabi who wants to know the truth, in order to help him.
Then we switch to the story of Arman Pakran, who is half American, and in Iran with his very American girlfriend Julia. He’s being blackmailed by Zia, a former agent of the Shah’s intelligence, to get information on the American hostages in order for the CIA to launch a rescue operation. But this blackmail/hostage situation/coup attempt is a backdrop to the relationships that take place in this tumultuous time. It is Arman’s story, but also the story of his childhood friend (and former love) Melody who is to be married to whiny Nader, as well as Melody’s cousin, Maryam, who is in an abusive relationship. In fact, I found the hostage rescue attempt and all that military talk to be quite clunky, getting in the way of what otherwise is a somewhat promising story. With the exception of Julia, who got on my nerves quite often, the women in this story are strong, brave characters, and despite this being a story filled with male characters, I got a good sense of who Melody and Maryam were.
If you’re interested in Iran or read suspenseful fiction, this might be a book for you, although you’d probably do better if you already have an inkling of the Iran hostage situation, and have a pen and paper handy to take notes that will lead you out of the confusion of the first 40-odd pages.
*Political thrillers aren’t a genre I read often… if ever, but the fact that this one was set in Iran intrigued me – and was ideal for the middle eastern leg of the Global Reading Challenge, so I was happy to have Greenleaf Book Group send it to me for review.
**I would very much like to place some of the blame on Singapore’s education system here – we spent far too much time, I reckon, on Singapore’s very young history (founded only in 1819) and far too little on the rest of the world, especially outside of Southeast Asia (I can tell you quite a bit about the history of Thailand for instance).
Title: Cemetery of Dreams
Author: S. Mostofi
Genre: Political thriller
Acquired: From the publisher for review
I read this book as part of the Global Reading Challenge.