Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

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“A novelist is a person who lives in other people’s skins.” – E. L. Doctorow

I didn’t know much about Forough Farrokhzad. I’ve actually never heard the name before, but when I received this book from Netgalley, I was interested in reading the life of a poet and how that life can be fictionalized to tell the tale. I didn’t know that fiction was really the only way you can tell her story.

Here’s more about the book

All through her childhood in Tehran, Forugh is told that Iranian daughters should be quiet and modest. She is taught only to obey, but she always finds ways to rebel—gossiping with her sister among the fragrant roses of her mother’s walled garden, venturing to the forbidden rooftop to roughhouse with her three brothers, writing poems to impress her strict, disapproving father, and sneaking out to flirt with a teenage paramour over café glacé. It’s during the summer of 1950 that Forugh’s passion for poetry really takes flight—and that tradition seeks to clip her wings.

Forced into a suffocating marriage, Forugh runs away and falls into an affair that fuels her desire to write and to achieve freedom and independence. Forugh’s poems are considered both scandalous and brilliant; she is heralded by some as a national treasure, vilified by others as a demon influenced by the West. She perseveres, finding love with a notorious filmmaker and living by her own rules—at enormous cost. But the power of her writing grows only stronger amid the upheaval of the Iranian revolution.

Inspired by Forugh Farrokhzad’s verse, letters, films, and interviews—and including original translations of her poems—Jasmin Darznik has written a haunting novel, using the lens of fiction to capture the tenacity, spirit, and conflicting desires of a brave woman who represents the birth of feminism in Iran—and who continues to inspire generations of women around the world.

I absolutely adored this book and even though it’s 416 pages, I finished it in a day and a half. The story follows loosely the real life of an Iranian poet named Forough Farrokhzad. She was a rebel in a world where women weren’t allowed to be rebellious. She was the embodiment of liberal thought living amongst people who would prefer women to raise families and be obedient. She had a voice in a place where women were told to remain silent.

I didn’t know much about her and if you try to Google Forough Farrokhzad, there really isn’t much about her there either. Jasmin Darznik believed the only way to tell the story of this famous female poet was through fiction. By adapting her voice and her thoughts, Darznik was able to bring to life a person who’s very own tragically ended too soon.

In the author’s notes (which I strongly encourage you to read), Darznik explains her process and how fiction felt like the only way to tell this story. I couldn’t agree with her more and even though there are some events that are completely fictionalized, you can’t tell where the line crosses. You don’t care if the line crosses because even if it isn’t real, it felt real. Even if what Forough went through didn’t happen, you can see it happening for thousands of women living in Iran during this time period.

I had to repeatedly remind myself that this is fiction. This is loosely based on her life and the history of Iran during the 1950s and 1960s. This had some factual evidence, but for the most part, it wasn’t real. But it read so real. Using the first person POV, I feel like Darznik was able to embody Forough for little bit and I was able to hear her story told to me first hand. Even though I was reading words, I felt like I was listening to a story. I sat with my hands grasped at my mouth happy and sad and angry and relieved and eventually heartbroken by the story being told.

This book does carry a lot of triggers. There’s a lot of pain and suffering. Even though Forough was considered one of Iranian’s best poets, she had her fair share of tough times. But her strength felt like a solider who kept on fighting. Her poetry was her weapon and the words were her cunning blows. There were parts that made me want to cry while I read about Forough’s lust for freedom. I shook my fists when she was brutally beaten by her own father and when she was forced into an insane asylum. I raged at how women were treated in Iran through the vicarious point of view of our main character.

I can probably go on about how lovely the writing is here. Darznik is truly a gifted writer who is able to embody her characters. There were quotes for days in this book. If I could, I would highlight passages that resonated so much to me. The book also includes poems from Forough relating back to the passage you read. Reading her poetry alongside her story was so well thought out and structured. It was like you just witnessed genius happen in front of you. That might be an over-exaggerated statement, but I loved this book.

I’ve always been a believer that you can learn things from fiction. You can get caught up in facts and figures and analyze any text, but when you use fiction as your arsenal you can tap into the raw emotions and grab the reader in a different way. You get the perspective of a person or people from a source you can’t get from non-fiction or from the Internet. Forough’s life in this book is an example of that.

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (February 13, 2018)
  • Rating: 5/5 stars
  • Buy Song of a Captive Bird on Amazon

Simone and Her Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

5 thoughts on “Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

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