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Based on the childhood experiences of the author, Sahar Delijani’s debut follows Neda, Omid and Sheida – the Children of the Jacaranda Tree. Delijani creates an intricate story, spanning years and set mostly in the city of Tehran during and after the revolutionary war, but also in Iran’s Evin Prison, and Turin, Italy.
While a work of fiction, the novel is based on the experiences of Delijani and her parents, who were imprisoned in Evin during the ‘80s. The Q&A on her website gives some great insight in to her life and the story behind her writing Children of the Jacaranda Tree. As one character says in the novel, “It is all one big prison, Sheida. We are all in one big prison.”
Generally I’ll pick non-fiction over a novel, however the ‘based on real events’ element of Delijani’s novel gave me hope that I’d find something to really enjoy. Delijani creates characters that are easy to empathise with, although I’m never great with names and having many characters with similar names meant I had trouble keeping them all straight.
To its credit, Children of the Jacaranda Tree is easy to read and (based on the large font and borders) not very long. The novel is divided in to sections, each following the children at some point in time during the novel’s 1983 to 2011 span. Each section felt like a short-story in itself, rather than a complete novel, leaving the story disjointed, and I found it hard to get back in to the story if I’d put it down during a section. While Delijani has a talent for writing, to me there felt to be a lack of depth to each sentence. Throwing long words in to sentences that are already full of too many adjectives made for awkward and over-written paragraphs. There are poignant quotes that come from the novel, which brought the ‘real life’ feeling back for me; “Childhood slips away when death settles in.” Slightly depressing, but the reality people were faced with, not only in Iran, but the world over.
I don’t want to put anyone off reading Children of the Jacaranda Tree. Google the book and you’ll find many reviews from people who dearly loved it. If you want a heart-felt story, set during a truly interesting and harrowing time in history, do take the time to check out this debut. No doubt we’ll be seeing more from Sahar Delijani.
Reviewed by Kimaya McIntosh
Children of the Jacaranda Tree
by Sahar Delijani
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson