I think it’s obvious from my recent posts that I’m a fan of Marjane Satrapi. I have now read all her books that I could get my hands on. Since these three are fairly short, I figured I’d put them all in one post.
By Marjane Satrapi
Hardcover, 56 pages
ISBN: 9781936393466 (first edition)
The Sigh is a fairy tale and, as the back of the book proclaims, “contains content suitable for readers of all ages” so you could even read it to a child as a bedtime story. The general outline is a familiar one – a father has three daughters, each of whom asks for a gift when he returns from his journey. Unable to procure the gift his youngest, Rose, wishes for, she sighs and thus, The Sigh is called. He gives her the gift she wanted and in exchange the father promises The Sigh a favor to be granted in the future. The Sigh returns for his favor, to take Rose away, and though the father argues, he has to keep his word. Rose is taken to a grand palace and treated like a queen. She later discovers that a prince has kept her there and was too shy to come forward and profess his love. Their feelings are mutual, but Rose ruins everything by accidentally plucking a single feather from the prince’s armpit (yes) and killing him. So she journeys far and wide, helping others, in a search for the feather so she can bring her prince back to life.
Maybe you haven’t read a lot of fairy tales, but to me, this is all a bit familiar. However, Marjane’s illustrations are colorful and beautiful – they make the book a pleasure to read. Though the story isn’t detailed in the way a novel is, Rose is nicely developed. She realizes her mistake and wants to fix it, but on her journey to bring her prince back to life, she selflessly helps three other families. In a nice twist, she’s offered a man’s hand in marriage as payment for two of the families she’s helped. I’m used to reading about princesses being offered up, so it was nice to see a female heroine. The moral of the story is that life is fleeting and we never know when it might end, so we must cherish what we have, while we have it.
By Marjane Satrapi
Paperback, 144 pages
Embroideries is categorized as a memoir, though it’s more like a book of short stories, told by different female characters living in Iran, done in Marjane’s usual graphic novel style. Marjane and her family and a few friends are sitting down to tea to gossip after lunch while the men nap. These women relate stories about past or present relationship issues and I think that most female readers will find that they’ve done something similar with their own family or friends. I can’t really describe the plot because each little tale has its own – but they range from cheating husbands, old lovers, sexual experiences, marriage and more. This is definitely not a book intended for children. I found myself laughing out loud several times, especially when the women are discussing the male anatomy. As the blurb on the book says, these stories “will strike us as at once deeply familiar and profoundly different from our own” and I’m inclined to agree. I enjoyed this little book very much and would recommend it to most – as long as you have a sense of humor and don’t mind people discussing sex and the naked body.
Chicken With Plums
By Marjane Satrapi
Hardcover, 84 pages
I’ll start right off by saying Chicken With Plums was my favorite of these three books. From the back of the book: We are in Tehran in 1958, and Nasser Ali Kahn, one of Iran’s most revered tar players, discovers that his beloved instrument is irreparably damaged. Though he tries, he cannot find one to replace it. In despair, he takes to his bed, renouncing the world and all its pleasures, closing the door on the demands and love of his wife and children.
Nasser Ali selfishly decides to die, but before he does so, he reflects back on his life and we are given a look into his thoughts during the eight days before he passes. This book was fantastically dark and depressing, yet also very poignant and revealing. I didn’t know whether to like Nasser Ali or not – but he felt so human. He plays favorites with his children, argues with his wife, can’t get over the girl who got away, resents his brother for being their mother’s favorite. What shocked me most was the fact that music was such a large part of his life and when he couldn’t find a replacement tar he literally decided to die and die he did! Satrapi packed a lot of emotion into just 84 pages, primarily doing so through her illustrations. I have a lot of respect for her as an author and I’d be hard-pressed to say whether I enjoyed this or her Persepolis stories more.