This is a monumental book, maybe a masterpiece of Iranian fiction, but certainly a family saga of considerable dimensions that follows the lifetime of one woman, Touba, from girlhood to old age. During a period of time that reaches across most of a century, she represents the traditional, sequestered world to which Iranian women have been assigned for generations. With one significant difference: she enters that world with the blessings of a father who believes that women are the equals to men and are free to think for themselves and shape their own destiny.
The irony of her situation is that while she makes every attempt to exercise that independence, she is restricted to a domestic life, running a household and raising children, while married to a member of the Royal family and a faithless husband. While self-reliant of necessity, especially as her husband's political fortunes force him to leave the country for a while and his wealth evaporates, Touba fails to escape the most crippling demands that her culture places upon women. She is not only party to the honor killing of a young girl but must hide the girl's body in her very own garden.
It's a compelling story, and this is only the beginning. But a caveat or two for interested readers: 1) At 300+ pages, it is a densely worded novel that reads more like a synopsis of a much longer book. 2) The style is very much in the manner of tell-don't-show. Instead of setting a scene in which characters speak and interact, the narration goes on for paragraph after paragraph, telling instead of showing: "She did this and then she did that, then she thought this, and she said that, etc." If you enjoy a long, complex, multi-character story, it will hold your interest, but not in the way you may be used to. This is no page-turner.
Meanwhile, Western readers will have an opportunity to see something of the traditional domestic lives of many women in Iran, where for much of the 20th century they were expected to remain unschooled, given in marriage at an early age to men who were permitted to have several wives, and segregated from the outside world, jealously dominated by males, and forced to be the keepers of their families' honor. Not surprisingly, the book has been banned by the authorities in Iran since its publication in 1987, and its author has spent time in prison there. All in all, a major work that is well worth the time and patience to read and absorb.