Welcome to the house of the mosque ...Iran, 1950. Spring has arrived, and as the women prepare the festivities, Sadiq waits for a suitor to knock on the door.
Her uncle Nosrat returns from Tehran with a glamorous woman, while on the rooftop, Shahbal longs only for a television to watch the first moon landing.
But not even the beloved grandmothers can foresee what will happen in the days and months to come.
The household is set to experience great love and loss as it opens the doors to faith and politics.
In this uplifting bestseller, Kader Abdolah charts the triumphs and tragedies of a family on the brink of revolution.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 448 pages, black & white illustrations
- Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 13/01/2011
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9781847672414
Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.
Previous | Next
Review by souloftherose
“There was once a house, an old house, which was known as ‘the house of the mosque’.” So begins The House of the Mosque by Kader Abdolah.Written by an Iranian author, now living in the Netherlands and writing in Dutch, The House of the Mosque follows an extended family who live in a house built onto a mosque in Senejan in Iran. The story starts in 1969 just before the first men land on the moon and continues through the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the subsequent Iran-Iraq war.Before reading this book, I knew very little about the above events or about Islam and its traditions but I didn’t feel this affected my enjoyment of this book; in fact I would recommend this as a good starting point for someone who’s interested in reading literature about this period or area.The House of the Mosque is a beautifully written novel, fable like in style with perhaps a touch of magical realism. Abdolah has been criticised for not being accurate enough in his treatment of the events surrounding the Iranian Revolution and I don’t know enough about the history of this period to know whether this criticism is accurate or not. But I think this is intended as a fable, as a fictionalised account of the author’s experiences in Iran during the time of the revolution and as a homage to the ‘old ways’, before the revolution changed things. The ending of the book makes it clear that to some extent this novel is autobiographical in nature and the novel is dedicated to Aqa Jaan, the main character in the book, ‘so I can let him go’. This is an emotional rather than factual account of this period of upheaval in Iran but despite the many struggles and sufferings described, the story is not depressing and ends on a note of hope that is truly uplifting.A wonderful book and one that has made me interested in reading more literature about this area of the world.
Review by elkiedee
This novel tells the story of an Iranian family in the late 20th century. The story opens in 1950. The house of the mosque is a very large house with 35 rooms, and a wealthy and influential extended family live there – 3 cousins and their families. They are the family who serve the mosque, as imams and religious leaders. This appears to be a hereditary responsibility as the same family has lived there for centuries. Over the years a variety of social and economic changes affect members of the family, then comes the revolution of 1979, when the Shah of Iran is overthrown only to be replaced by the Islamic state ruled by Ayatollah Khomeini.There is a huge variety of characters and a constantly changing political background in the story, but it is a very engaging good read. Apparently, the treatment of historical fact in the novel is not that accurate, but I think his concern is to tell a story of the effects on the individuals and the increasingly divided family. The family has prospered under the Shah, and some are very unhappy and scared at the changes of 1979. One is a left wing activist, and others become keen supporters of the Islamic regime, including Zinat, the woman who becomes a torturer. I was interested in the portrayal of women’s roles in the novel. They are not exactly great feminist heroines, and mostly, not really fully-fledged as characters in the way that the men are, but they find a range of ways of asserting their own identity, and they are certainly not just the passive women behind the veil that are often a stereotype of modern Iranian society.The novel includes a brief glossary at the end and a family tree at the beginning (in the form of a picture of a tree with birds on it). However, I didn’t look words and other references up when reading, I just enjoyed the story, and I didn’t even notice the family tree until well after I’d finished reading. Still, it adds a nice touch to the book for readers who like to spend time getting all the details of a novel straight.I found the writing style, even in translation, very atmospheric and the story flowed very smoothly. Thanks to the Early Reviewers scheme for introducing this author to me, and I’ve already brought another of his novels home from the library.
Review by wandering_star
The House Of The Mosque is the story of a family, who live in the the house of the mosque in a fairly religious city in Iran. The book starts during the rule of the Shah, and shows what happens to the family in the period up to and after the Islamic Revolution. Some of the developments impinge more on the family than others - at times, the village imam is non-political and life goes on quietly; then the next imam is more in touch with the religious leaders in Qom and encourages the villagers to protest against the Shah. One of the members of the family develops communist leanings; others become revolutionaries; and others just get on with their lives. It's quite hard for me to explain how I felt about this book. My opinions kept changing as I was reading it. The first 20 pages felt like a textbook example of how-to-write-a-Middle-East-bestseller: from the cover (a grubby but bright-eyed small boy, regarding the reader, despite the fact that no small boys feature very much in the story) to the opening magical-realism-tinged scene, with deliberately simple story-teller like language and nods to themes of the clash between tradition and the modern and the treatment of women.As the book went on, though, it became more interesting, and much less cliched. It's certainly a more complex view of Iran than in most Iran-variant Middle-East-bestsellers. The characters - I can't say they were fully rounded individuals, but they certainly couldn't be summed up in a phrase. There was a lovely theme about the power of the spoken word - poetry, storytelling, Koran readings, and sermons (one of the ways the village changes is in the character of the different imams). That said, in the end the shortcomings in the writing really undermined all the good things about the book. It doesn't seem to have been constructed at all: one thing happens, then the next thing happens, then the next thing happens, and we are told it all in sequence. After the Revolution, time telescopes so that all the key events can be fitted in (one chapter starts, "Five months later, at around noon, three Iraqi warplanes flew over Tehran"). It's terribly expository, with characters explaining politics and history to each other. And (probably related to the previous point), everything is explained immediately, which is one of my pet hates about books.* Trust your readers to fill in the gaps! It's probably not a coincidence that my favourite story within the book is the only one which remains unexplained, the story of the grandmothers' disappearance during the Hajj. In the end, then, although there were good things about this book, I can't really recommend it to other readers.Sample: <i>"You're a special woman. I rarely meet women like you. As I listened to you read, I ran alongside those snorting stallions whose hooves make sparks fly. I've read that surah many times, but this is the first time it's ever touched me so deeply. I owe that to you." Zinat soaked up his words like a desert soaks up a sudden rain. And his last sentence did its work. That night, as she lay in bed, she thought of his "I owe that to you".</i>
Review by silvercowrie
I was easily drawn into the story of The House of the Mosque. There is a drawing of a tree in the front of the book, which includes all the main characters of the book, most of whom live in the house attached to the Mosque, including a bird - The Crow. I found myself referring back to this simple but evocative drawing several times, until I was familiar with the characters and their relationships to one another.The House of the Mosque is located in Senejan, Iran and the story opens in 1950, at which time the large house had been in the same family for many generations. The head of the house is Aqa Jaan, a highly successful carpet maker and respected member of the community. There is a timelessness about the opening of the book as we learn about the house, with it's rooms named according to their function - The Carpet Room, The Opium Room, The Sick Room and The Grandmother's Room, and about the inhabitants like the grandmothers who weren't grandmothers but servants who had ensured the smooth running of the house for over fifty years. There is a magical quality, a harmony, a sense of continuation, history, tradition and religion. However the world is changing - images of lunar landings can be watched on television sets and Iran is on the brink of a revolution. The political tension which is emerging as the backdrop to the story becomes the much darker story as the country changes from one regime to another.Although I had watched the turmoil in Iran unfold in the news at the time, through this book, I found I had a much greater understanding of what had happened through the story. Some of the characters felt so real, especially Aqa Jaan, that I wondered by the end if there was an autobiographical element to this book. There is an acknowledgement to him, but him as a character or based on reality?This is a beautifully written book and I am now keen to read more of Kader Abdolah's work.
Review by riikkat
The novel tells the story of an Iranian family as they struggle to survive the changing times and the Iranian revolution. I started reading this novel with hardly any knowledge of Iranian history or Islamic customs. By the end of the book I was fascinated. Especially the start of the book told the story of a traditional Iranian family so well, I wanted to hear more about their customs and stories. The start of the book had an almost magical quality to it.Things start getting darker and more complex very soon though. The revolution is approaching and it changes the lives of every individual living in the house and mostly not for the better. Towards the end of the book you feel like the heartbrake will never end. Luckily the ending is despite all very beautiful and hopeful.Abdolah has a way of bringing all his characters to life and his writing is superb. I'd recommed this book to anyone who'd be interested to know more about life in Iran in the latter half of the 20th century and also to those who would like to get a climpse of family life at that period of time.
Previous | Next