The Gardens of Consolation

Written by Adriana Hunter (trans.) Parisa Reza
Review by Anne Clinard Barnhill

In her debut novel, Parisa Reza presents a simple, beautiful story of two Iranian peasants, Sardar and his wife, Talla, who leave their secure village—a paradise—for the wider world. As they make their way across the mountains, they suffer many hardships, including the loss of two children. Talla wants nothing more than to settle down to a place she can call home, and Sardar is determined to provide such a place for his green-eyed and lovely wife.

Set in the 1920s, the novel follows this couple through the rise of Reza Shah Pahlavi and the forced adaptation toWestern culture. Though Talla must trade her chador for more modern clothes, she remains in her heart a very traditional Iranian woman.

This novel is reminiscent of Steinbeck’s The Pearl with its fable-like quality and beautiful writing. Reza presents to the reader a very different view of Iran than that reported by newspapers and magazines. Though Reza left the country when she was 17, the land has made an indelible mark on her. Her love for the struggling shepherds and farmers is palpable. As a result, The Gardens of Consolation is a lovely book filled with both heartbreak and hope.