In seventeenth century Iran, a spirited village girl of fourteen approaches the age of marriage, only to find her destiny shattered by the ominous prophecies that follow a fiery comet blazing across the desert sky. Confronted with the unexpected death of her beloved father and without prospects for gathering a dowry, the young woman and her distraught mother are forced into a difficult new life in the fabled city of Isfahan. Taken in as house servants by her distant uncle Gostaham, a well-to-do carpet designer, and his demanding wife, the two women confront an unforgiving world where their very survival requires strength and resilience beyond their most dire expectations.
When the heroine blossoms as a brilliant maker of carpets under her uncle's tutelage, the future brightens with the possibility of affluence and independence, but soon disaster strikes again. An impetuous act of artistic integrity results in the heroine’s disgrace, forcing her into a loveless, secret marriage. Toiling as a carpet designer by day and a reluctant wife by night, she makes an audacious decision that shocks her host family and puts their reputation at stake. With nowhere else to turn, the young woman must marshall all of her artistic genius and her extraordinary will in an attempt to save herself and her mother from a grim and unfulfilling future.
Set in the legendary time of Shah Abbas the Great, the novel captures the bustle of bazaars overflowing with pomegranates, rosewater and saffron; the breathtakingly beautiful silk and gold rugs of the Shah’s carpet workshop; and Isfahan’s incomparable bridges, gardens, teahouses, and hammams. With spellbinding medieval Persian tales and prose that flows like the Zayandeh River through the city of Isfahan, The Blood of Flowers is the story of one woman's struggle to create a life of her choosing, relying—against all odds—on the strength of her own hands, mind and will.
This was such a wonderful story that was left a bit mysterious to me since the author decided to leave the main character unnamed. It is funny, but I have to admit that I did not even realize that her name was not given throughout the novel until it was brought up in one of the discussion questions. We are taken on a journey of this innocent girl's life as she crosses over from a naive young lady to a strong and independent business woman.
This book begins with the girl's life in a small village in Persia, living with her parents she is able to rely on them for her every need. As the only child of the family she has a very close relationship with her parents but seemed to bond closer with her father as he has taught her everything that she knows about making carpets that are beautiful to the eye. She could never foresee how her life would change forever after her father passes away.
The mother and daughter try to stay on in the village that they have always known as their home. Life becomes quite difficult as they have no way to earn money so when food starts to run dangerously low they decide to reach out to distant family members hoping that they will take them in. Since they don't have a dowry to offer for the young girl they do not think that they have any other option.
They are grateful beyond words when her father's brother in Isfahan decides to take them both in. Although they graciously accept his hospitality, they are quite disappointed when they arrive to learn that they will be living and treated like servants rather than family members. Knowing they do not have a choice in the living arrangements they accept the circumstances as they are.
Since the mother and daughter are living at the mercy of the aunt and uncle they are very unsure of their future in the household. They become worried that they could possibly make one wrong move and be cast out into the streets with just the clothes on their backs. One of their only hopes was that the young girl would marry a successful man, but without a dowry that option was more than likely lost. The young girl found herself growing close to her uncle and gaining a respect for him as he worked for the Royal Rug Company and has offered to teach her everything that he could about carpet making. The poor girl had every reason for her feelings of frustration and deception when her uncle arranged for a less than reasonable marriage arrangement.
I must admit that I never really considered the hard work that has gone into producing one of these beautiful rugs. Although most today are probably factory made, to think that something similar was handmade with two hands (or more, depending on how many people were working on the rug) and a loom amazes me. It has been said that these rugs tell their own stories, and I could see the stories coming too life through the rugs that this young girl created. She struggled with her rug creations as she did with her life choices and I enjoyed how the rugs were more beautiful as she gained wisdom.
This was a beautiful story that brings to life another culture along with it's vivid colors. Not only can you see the beauty and vibrance of the carpets, but you also get a good sense of the tastes and smells of the ethnic foods. With themes of love, loss, beauty, perseverance and struggles, this book was enjoyed by my entire book group.
My Rating: 4/5
Disclosure: This book was from my personal collection and although it was a book club selection, I did read it for my own entertainment.