Moon Brow by Shahriar Mandanipour

Review published on April 5, 2018.

This unusual novel is written by one of Iran’s most acclaimed fiction writers, whose writing was banned in his home country between 1992 and 1997. He now lives in the United States.

The story is told by two scribes sitting on the left and right shoulder of Amir, a young Iranian, each recounting a different version of his life, with short interludes from Amir’s point of view. Amir has grown up in Tehran during the last Shah’s rule, becoming a high-living playboy with plenty of money and girlfriends, before an upsetting experience with one of them leads him to join up to fight in the Iran-Iraq War. There he is wounded, and returns to civilian life having lost his left arm and most of his memory. But his condition becomes so unmanageable that he is sent to a secure mental hospital, and eventually released into the care of his sister, Reyhaneh. He is, however, haunted by the vague memory of a woman he has loved and calls Moon Brow, and he is determined to remember who she really is and to find her.

This makes the book sound like a simple love story, which I suppose it basically is. But it’s so much more – a fascinating insight into modern Iran from before the downfall of the Shah onwards. Amir lives through this period, as did the author, who also spent time involved in the Iran-Iraq War. The book is a delight to read, poetically written with many references to Persian folklore. Neither does it fail to address the brutal realities of war or the intimate details of Amir’s sex life.

For these reasons and because it’s set in an unfamiliar culture, it’s not always an easy read. It is, however, always an absorbing one, and I’m glad I read it.

Sue Glynn 5/4

Moon Brow by Shahriar Mandanipour
Restless Books 9781632061287 pbk Apr 2018

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