Book Review | The Stationery Shop of Tehran by Marjan Kamali

Roya and Bahman, the two characters around which the story revolves, would spark in you a fresh urge to fall in love or evoke bygone emotions. A poignant love story that will leave you in tears and this is no exaggeration. Their story dates back to 1953 in Tehran when Iran was going through a lot of disturbance and protests, the story of Roya and Bahman starts from a small book shop. Between the turmoil, their love blossoms and with changing face of Tehran, it also went through the ebb and flow. Choosing different paths in life that looked parallel, do they ever cross their paths again?

Marjan Kamali has given a beautiful and vivid description. It’s so intense and dramatic that each word facilities transporting you to the world of Roya and Bahman. “The sky was lavender and layered with shades of purple so varied, they seemed impossible”, who would not fall in love with such a description and details.

On one side is Roya’s family, shown as progressive and supporting their two daughters in times when women were oppressed; on the other is Bahman, whose mother is self-centred and can put his son’s wishes at stake for her ulterior motives. The book is a reminder that we cannot change the course of our fate no matter what. Despite the efforts to keep in touch, engage and marry each other against all odds, fate had its plan for the duo. It’s heart-touching to imagine their reunion after sixty years. Roya’s life in America and Bahman in Tehran all these years—what made them reunite when they parted forever? “Love: How it tangles” and never leaves!

The last few chapters would leave you heartbroken, haunted and with practical thoughts. Life’s not what we imagine it to be yet it leaves us with the most beautiful memories. “Some things stay with you, haunt you. Some embers nestle into your skin.” –despite all the losses that changed the course of their lives, the losses are irreversible and irrevocable yet the satisfaction of knowing the truth conquers. The book ends on a profound note stating that time is not linear but circular. There is no past, present, future— “The past was always there, lurking in the corners, winking at you when you thought you’d moved on, hanging on to your organs from the inside.”

I am deeply touched by the style of writing the author has presented. I can read this book over and over again. The last book I remember reading and absorbing in this manner was The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. An amazing correlation and intertwining of characters throughout the book. There are no extras or unnecessary elements in the book. It’s a book for a lifetime and can be added to your collection.

My favourite lines from the book:

“You might think that the world is complicated and full of lost souls, that people who’ve touched your life and disappeared will never be found, but in the end, all of that can change.”

“It was as if she hadn’t stopped hearing it for sixty years. Here was the boy who’d danced with her at Thursday night soirees, who’d kissed her by the jasmine bushes when they decided to marry, who’d written love letters that summer of the coup.”

“She was with a stranger here. She was with her love. She held these two truths in her mind at the same time and found it hard to speak…Maybe old love just ran through the decades unfettered, unimpeded, even when denied.”

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One comment

  1. I could feel travelling through the knitting of a poetic love story.
    This captivating review of yours, keeps the reader on edge and excites to experience the whole book.
    Definitely going to order my copy…. Thanks for the suggestion


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