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For anyone with an interest in recent international history, Ms Hellmann has provided a stellar fictional perspective with "A Bitter Veil." Perhaps because I never liked history classes very much, I think that historical fiction offers most of us the best way to learn about what happened in the past: through the eyes of (albeit, fictional, but believable) people living through it. In this case, we're talking about a horrific historical event: the 1978 Iranian revolution. Even without the opening chapter -- which starts us off in the middle of the horror -- we can feel the impending doom gathering and hovering, about to engulf our protagonist, Anna, in its darkness. I kept wanting to scream at Anna, "You fool! Can't you see what is going to happen to you?" Of course, few of us could see what was coming back then, could we? I, in my youthful innocence and self-absorption, had only a vague awareness -- and no interest -- in the events taking place on the other side of the planet. Now I can declare that everything that I know about the Iranian revolution I learned from Libby Fischer Hellmann. When I hear about those terrifying events, it occurs to me how uniquely "gentle" our American revolution must appear in the history of world revolutions. As far as I know, we did not have wild-eyed, fundamentalist vigilantes running around murdering fellow citizens for not believing the way they did. (Of course, we then made up for it less than a century later with our Civil War, didn't we?) Compare our American revolution with the bloody French revolution, where people felt justified in murdering their own monarchs and nobility. Ms Hellmann, in her Afterword, mentions the cruelty and bloodthirstiness of the French, Cuban, Russian, and Chinese revolutions, pointing out how we humans keep making the same mistakes. We keep thinking that we finally have the right paradigm, and employ violence to force it upon our neighbors. Even though I don't like studying history, I have to admit that we all need to have our noses rubbed in it, so that we can, hopefully, learn from our past folly. Audiobooks like "The Bitter Veil" may provide the most effective -- and, arguably the least painful -- way to do that. If you have the courage, purchase "The Bitter Veil," and brace yourself.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Anna and Nouri, both college students studying in Chicago, fall in love despite their very different backgrounds.Anna grew up in strange circumstances. Her father was a scientist from Nazi Germany repatriated to the U.S. after the war because the government wanted his scientific knowledge. Her mother, a citizen from India, divorced her father after she learned of his war activities and moved to Paris, leaving Anna with her father in the U.S. Due to this background, where she never felt loved as a child, Anna is more than happy to return with Nouri to his native Iran, to be embraced by his wealthy family, with his father being a known supporter of the Shah of Iran. . Beginning their
married life together in 1978, their world is abruptly turned upside down by the overthrow of the Shah, and the rise of the Islamic Republic.Under the
Ayatollah Khomeini and the Republican Guard, life becomes increasingly restricted and Anna must learn to exist in a transformed world, where none of the
familiar Western rules apply. Random arrests and torture become the norm, women are required to wear hijab, and Anna discovers that she is no longer free
to leave the country. As events reach a fevered pitch, Anna realizes that nothing is as she thought, and no one can be trusted? Not even her husband. Then things get even worse when her husband is murdered, Anna is framed for the murder and thrown into the worst prison in Iran. This is an excellent book with Hellman’s expert touch of putting you right in the middle of political events, never letting the tension ease until the very end. This will be one of my best books of the year.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful