The next book on my Historical Fiction Around the World tour is The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali which is one of my favorite reads so far. This story is not a romance, but is a love story between two people who should have been together all along but obstacles prevented them from sharing a life. Those obstacles include political and personal forces, but I won’t elaborate as that would count as giving away the story. The hardback I read was 308 pages long without any supporting elements like glossary, maps, or pronunciation guide. But it didn’t need any of those to help me follow the story.
The story begins in 2013, then jumps back to 1953 and progresses back up to the present day. There is one other flashback to 1916 to show the foundation for the rest of the story elements, plot twists, and character motivations and reactions. Ms. Kamali deftly handles these transitions using not only transitional language but guideposts in the form of titles and dates at the beginning of each chapter. The use of these flashbacks to previous years allowed me to see the cause and effect that events from the past had on the story present-day events.
The story is divided into five parts, with Part 1 consisting of 13 chapters; Part 5 has 8; and Parts 2-4, 9 chapters total. As you might suspect, Part 1 carries the weight of the story, with transitioning through the middle parts. Part 5 naturally provides the wrap-up, the explanations as to what has transpired throughout and what it all ultimately means for the characters. I enjoyed seeing how Ms. Kamali varied both scene and chapter lengths, as well. The combination helped the story pace to flow right along.
Ms. Kamali also uses several devices to augment the meaning and substance of the story. One of those devices is short but important exchanges as separate scenes. Another is the use of stream of consciousness sentences without punctuation to interrupt the flow. The resulting effect worked to make the moment more immediate and vivid, at least to me.
I was intrigued by life in Iran back in the 1950s and how girls/women were treated then. How they were expected to behave even as those expectations began to shift to be more Western in nature. Dealing with change is never easy, especially for those who resist new ideas. I haven’t studied this time period nor this country so experiencing Kamali’s story gave me a level of awareness as to the culture and the politics of the time in an easy to understand form.
Next up on my tour is Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost. I’m sure many of you have heard of Ondaatje since he wrote The English Patient. Mr. Ondaatje was born in Sri Lanka and then moved to Canada. I’m looking forward to finding out just what kind of ghost is in this tale.
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Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.
Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.
But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband… no matter what the dangerous future may hold.