It all began with a line of Persian poetry . . . Anna and Nouri, both studying in Chicago, fall in love despite their very different backgrounds. Anna, who has never been close to her parents, is more than happy to return with Nouri to his native Iran, to be embraced by his wealthy family. Beginning their married life together in 1978, their world is abruptly turned upside down by the overthrow of the Shah, and the rise of the Islamic Republic.
Under the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Republican Guard, life becomes increasingly restricted and Anna must learn to exist in a transformed world, where none of the familiar Western rules apply. Random arrests and torture become the norm, women are required to wear hijab, and Anna discovers that she is no longer free to leave the country. As events reach a fevered pitch, Anna realizes that nothing is as she thought, and no one can be trusted? Not even her husband.
©2012 Libby Fischer Hellmann (P)2012 Libby Fischer Hellmann
"The Iranian revolution provides the backdrop for this meticulously researched, fast-paced stand-alone ...A significant departure from the author's Chicago-based Ellie Foreman and Georgia Davis mystery series, this political thriller will please established fans and newcomers alike." (Publishers Weekly)
"Hellmann crafts a tragically beautiful story... both subtle and vibrant... never sacrificing the quality of her storytelling. Instead, the message drives the psychological and emotional conflict painting a bleak and heart wrenching tale that will stick with the reader long after they finish the book." (Bryan VanMeter, Crimespree Magazine)
“This story is simultaneously enthralling, scarily real, and deeply thought-provoking. I couldn’t put it down.” (Gather.com)
For anyone with an interest in recent international history, Ms Hellmann has provided a stellar fictional perspective with "A Bitter Veil." Perhaps because I never liked history classes very much, I think that historical fiction offers most of us the best way to learn about what happened in the past: through the eyes of (albeit, fictional, but believable) people living through it. In this case, we're talking about a horrific historical event: the 1978 Iranian revolution. Even without the opening chapter -- which starts us off in the middle of the horror -- we can feel the impending doom gathering and hovering, about to engulf our protagonist, Anna, in its darkness. I kept wanting to scream at Anna, "You fool! Can't you see what is going to happen to you?" Of course, few of us could see what was coming back then, could we? I, in my youthful innocence and self-absorption, had only a vague awareness -- and no interest -- in the events taking place on the other side of the planet. Now I can declare that everything that I know about the Iranian revolution I learned from Libby Fischer Hellmann. When I hear about those terrifying events, it occurs to me how uniquely "gentle" our American revolution must appear in the history of world revolutions. As far as I know, we did not have wild-eyed, fundamentalist vigilantes running around murdering fellow citizens for not believing the way they did. (Of course, we then made up for it less than a century later with our Civil War, didn't we?) Compare our American revolution with the bloody French revolution, where people felt justified in murdering their own monarchs and nobility. Ms Hellmann, in her Afterword, mentions the cruelty and bloodthirstiness of the French, Cuban, Russian, and Chinese revolutions, pointing out how we humans keep making the same mistakes. We keep thinking that we finally have the right paradigm, and employ violence to force it upon our neighbors. Even though I don't like studying history, I have to admit that we all need to have our noses rubbed in it, so that we can, hopefully, learn from our past folly. Audiobooks like "The Bitter Veil" may provide the most effective -- and, arguably the least painful -- way to do that. If you have the courage, purchase "The Bitter Veil," and brace yourself.
Anna and Nouri, both college students studying in Chicago, fall in love despite their very different backgrounds.Anna grew up in strange circumstances. Her father was a scientist from Nazi Germany repatriated to the U.S. after the war because the government wanted his scientific knowledge. Her mother, a citizen from India, divorced her father after she learned of his war activities and moved to Paris, leaving Anna with her father in the U.S. Due to this background, where she never felt loved as a child, Anna is more than happy to return with Nouri to his native Iran, to be embraced by his wealthy family, with his father being a known supporter of the Shah of Iran. . Beginning their
married life together in 1978, their world is abruptly turned upside down by the overthrow of the Shah, and the rise of the Islamic Republic.Under the
Ayatollah Khomeini and the Republican Guard, life becomes increasingly restricted and Anna must learn to exist in a transformed world, where none of the
familiar Western rules apply. Random arrests and torture become the norm, women are required to wear hijab, and Anna discovers that she is no longer free
to leave the country. As events reach a fevered pitch, Anna realizes that nothing is as she thought, and no one can be trusted? Not even her husband. Then things get even worse when her husband is murdered, Anna is framed for the murder and thrown into the worst prison in Iran. This is an excellent book with Hellman’s expert touch of putting you right in the middle of political events, never letting the tension ease until the very end. This will be one of my best books of the year.
Avid reader (listener) and Audible Fan!
Could not stop listening. Beautifully written, a very strong main character, and told within the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution. Listening brought forth so many emotions in me--love, sadness, fear, and strength of the human spirit--to name just a few. The characters are well-developed, the narration fabulous, and the history of the Revolution very well researched. When I hear of Iran, I will always think of this tale because if the right circumstances lined up this upheaval could occur in any country (as similar situations have in recent history). Bottom line is--I LOVE THIS STORY!
I am 51 years young. I am a second grade teacher, wife and mother of four grown children and two adorable grandsons.
The reader brought the characters to life with her persian accent. The history entertwinned made the story most interesting. I love stories about women who survive against unfortuate circumstances.
The history, a strong, intelligent main character and her will to survive.
Loved her persian accent, it brought the story to life.
Of course, but that was not possible.
Did not read the print version.
The escape scene from Iran.
Yes, if I had time!!
I was sent this audio book for free by the author; thank you, Libby!
I forgot, while reading this book, that it was fiction, as it felt like a real story. The book was obviously well- researched. I was only slightly older than Anna when all these events happened in Iran. It's about Anna, a college student in Chicago, the daughter of a German physicist father and a French mother (her parents were divorced and she lived with her father, mainly), who meets Nouri Samedi, a wealthy Iranian engineering grad student. They fall in love and after her graduation, they decide to go to Iran and get married, and start a life there. Anna is hoping for a wonderful family life, something she felt she never had with her own family. But political events are happening in Iran, and the setting is just prior to the Shah's fall. At first, her life in Iran is wonderful, her in-laws embrace her, her husband is loving and doting, and Anna starts to make friends with another American woman, also the wife of an Iranian. As all the political upheaval starts to happen, things change in the Samedi household and Nouri doesn't know how to cope with the change. He and his family turn against all things American, including Anna. My only complaint is how quickly Nouri changes for the worst, and without any explanation about why he suddenly falls out of love with Anna. He doesn't talk with her and I'm confused why everything is suddenly her fault, and, literally, it happens almost overnight. I was just as distressed as Anna was, over how horrible her life becomes. I was so angry with Nouri!
The book is beautifully written and I feel like I learned so much about the time, the politics, and Iran as a country, and about the people. I was wary of Anna marrying Nouri and moving to Iran from the beginning, as I immediately thought about the book, Not Without My Daughter, and knew what dangers Anna would face once married and living in that society, and how her rights as a woman would be eroded.
I highly recommend this book, and I loved the audio narration. I could hardly wait for my daily commute to/from work each day, just so I could listen! Kudos to the author for a wonderful, believable story about true events that I remember so well happening in my youth.
Having read most of this author's books, A BITTER VEIL is to date Libby Fischer Hellmann's masterpiece. It is artistically and creatively her very best. A story with a romance between an American woman and an Iranian man despite their cultural and religious differences, this story accurately portrays the Iran of during the revolution, throws in a little mystery although this is not the bulk of the plot. The mystery comes about rather because of the people and as a result of the events within the story.. The characters are well fleshed out and defined. My only issue was that one character in specific appeared to change drastically overnight rather than a slow metamorphosis which is more realistic. The plot is compelling and historically accurate with both sides of the revolution that disposed the Shah presented.. The narration by Diane Piron-Gelman was superb. She seamless went from American accents into those of the Iranians. Originally this audio book was to be my twenty minute a day late night walking the dog book, however I was so mesmerized by the plot that I listened to well into the night.
Plot and Writing 5 out of 5
Character Development 4.75 out of 5
Pacing 5 out of 5
Narration 5 out of 5
BOOK AVERAGE 4.93
I was in graduate school, between jobs in the Middle East, during the Iranian Revolution, and teaching in Kuwait in the early days Khomeini's reign. I knew many Iranian students and saw first hand the devastating effects of life under both the Shah and the new regime. Hellman's book brought much of that era rushing back, and she certainly did her homework. Still, stories set in "enemy territory" can be problematic. Even when characters are varied and complex, it's very easy to reinforce stereotypes. People tend to embrace whatever supports their beliefs and miss those elements that challenge their beliefs. Hellman does a fair job of showing Nuri's descent into the madness of post-torture life under an oppressive regime, and of showing "good" and "bad" Iranians. I was nevertheless disappointed to see the portrayal of Nuri reinforce so many of the common notions about Middle Eastern/Muslim husbands -- he becomes emotional and sexually abusive; a holds his wife captive and cuts her off from her family and friends; he hides things from her; he cuts her out of his life. A bit too predictable, and unnecessary for a good story. A good read, but with cautions in place.
I found the last-minute introduction of a Kurdistani Jew as hero a bit gratuitous. Why not a Sunni Kurd, or even a Shi'ite Persian? Yes, there are Kurdistani Jews, but they don't figure into the rest of the story, so I have to wonder why the last-minute introduction was necessary. There is a suggestion of backstory with Anna's father, but that point is never developed. Perhaps a good question for an author interview.
A Fascinating look at a time of turmoil in Iran with the fall of the Shah & the rise of the Ayatollah. This book felt very well researched and wasn’t a slam on an entire country or religion. We meet a young couple in love in America, Nouri and Anna they are young and in love Nouri is Iranian but this makes no difference to Anna in fact she is looking forward to the day they make their home in Iran. However Iran is in the beginning stages of upheaval and when the Shah falls everything in Nouri & Anna’s life changes too and definitely not for the better.
I found this story fascinating in how fast people’s allegiances and loyalty and personalities changed with the revolution and how many different reasons for the changes. Anne married a sweet man in Nouri who was involved in human rights activism while he was studying in the US and even after they had gotten to Iran he seemed to still hold the same beliefs until after the fall of the Shah and Nouri is arrested he comes back a very different man and Anna’s whole life changes.
I don’t want to give too much away about what happens between Nouri and Anna but let’s say he becomes a different man than she married. The unrest in Iran is fascinating the way the people flip-flopped on what It was they wanted from their country it makes me wonder how different the middle east and Iran in particular would be now if the ones that wanted to embrace the modern and give the rights to everyone had won this particular battle.
The narration by Diane Pirone Gelman was very well done her accents weren’t over done and as far as I could tell she did a good job at speaking Farsi and French when called for. I was impressed with her narration as a whole and would listen to her again.
In the author’s afterword she talks about interviewing many Iranian Americans for this story and I felt like this rang true to what I know of this time period. One thing the author said in the afterword is she is a crime writer and needed a crime but I kind of felt like the crimes were on the people of Iran although the crime did add the ending and fit well in the story.
If you are at all interesting in this time period or setting or just a fan of historical fiction I would highly recommend this book.
I received this book from the author & the Audiobookjukebox for a fair and honest review
Title : A Bitter Veil
Author: Libby Fischer Hellmann
Narrator: Diane Pirone Gelman
Publisher: Libby Fischer Hellmann
Length: 9 hrs 29 min.
Year of Publication: 3-30-12
I really enjoy listening to books when they involve another culture and include dialogue in a different language. When I’m reading I attempt to determine how to pronounce the foreign words and it can throw me out of the story. With audio books the narrator, when they’re good does all the heavy lifting and everything flows. This is the case with Diane Pirone Gelman.
As the single narrator, Gelman, creates the myriad of characters by using tone, inflections, and accepts. Her performance did not have a false note. Her performance kept me riveted to the story. I have a rule, audio books are listened to in the car while traveling. I broke that rule while listening to A Bitter Veil.
One small complaint in an otherwise flawless performance was that the chapter number felt rushed. There didn’t seem to be a pause at the ending line of one chapter when the new chapter number was being announced. It’s a small irritation but I noted it.
Being an old school woman, and new to audible, I had to figure out how to be able to play this through my stereo speakers. Enter an FM transmitter. Even with this low tech solution the production of the presentation was very good. The sound level was consistent throughout the book.
I listen to a lot of audio books, some good, others not so much. This production kept me glued my seat. The story is excellent and although his my introduction to this author I will be seeking out more of her work. She creates memorable characters and puts them in a time in history when the world in Iran is turned upside down. The author obviously did a great deal of research on this period in time. It led me to want to learn more of this culture.
The author starts the book with a crisis in the life of the married Anna. She is in Iran, the Ayatollah has taken over and the national guard is sweeping through the country taking people into prison or executing them. One night, after a fight with her husband Nouri, she is awoken to find 3 national guard outside her door announcing that her husband has been murdered. She is being accused of his murder. Anna is wondering how she got to this place when the author indeed takes us back to the beginning, when Anna met Nouri when they were both college students in Chicago.
Just when you are screaming about being taken away from this momentous event Hellman sweeps you up in the romance between these two young and idealistic students. How can Anna resist when Nouri reads from Rumi. “The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.” Nouri is an intelligent and passionate man who loves his country and wants more for it than what the Shah is providing. Anna has never felt truly part of a family and Nouri gives her a feeling of being part of a relationship. As they near graduation Nouri proposes and they plan to live in Iran.
Hellman uses the changes that are occurring during this period in Iran to begin building the tension, between the family, amongst the citizens and in the country as a whole. Even knowing the history the author allows the reader to really experience these changes over time and feel the building tension. As events unfold the author keeps you at the edge of your seat and doesn’t let you go till the very end.
It’s a beautiful story and highly recommended.
This audio was provided by the publisher and Audible.com. This in no way impacted the outcome of this review. Indeed, I plan on buying the Kindle version so that I can experience both the written and spoken word my next time around.
We read to know, we are not alone ~ C.S. Lewis
Audio Book Review:
I actually ended up listening to this all in one straight shot, as every time I went to put it down there was an event unfolding that needed me to know its resolution. This is one of those stories that while it deals with the near-past, the events and understanding brought forward in the book will provide readers / listeners with a better grasp on the complexities of current world situations.
Anna is an interesting character, one that I found rather needy and more than slightly naïve, which worked to her detriment for a large part of the story. Nouri is also a well-defined character, who is practicing the often-common phenomenon of Americanizing his behaviour and attitudes while you are away from parental control and societal constraints while you are a student abroad. Early on in the story, we see flashes of Nouri’s ingrained attitude toward a woman’s place, although Anna misses every signal, more enamored of the idea of love and belonging than actually creating a solid relationship.
As the story progresses and Anna attempts to adapt to her position as a wife of a Muslim man living in Tehran, their relationship is slowly fraying because she is starting to see the reality of the relationship and looking to question, when Nouri will entertain none of her questions and often is abusive and controlling of her every move.
All the while, the country is in turmoil and the various factions are struggling for control. Nothing and nowhere is truly safe, settled or even secure. It becomes a gripping tale of multiple fractures in the foundations of relationships, families and countries.
Impeccably researched, with a clever inset of a crime with a highly improbable (from the outside) suspect, dramatics from family and events, a solid inclusion of Farsi and other Islamic traditions this book is laden with information as it leads you through the plot. Diane Pirone Gelman is a marvelous narrator, with pitch, tone and clarity of the tongue twisting words in Farsi all serve to immerse the listener into the story.
Libby Fischer Hellman has done it again: provided a story that is no holds barred, researched it thoroughly and provided a plot that keeps you engaged and interested in what happens next. This is the perfect listen for your commute or a long journey: 9 hours flew by from start to end.
I received an AudioBook version from the author for purpose of honest review for the Heard Word at I am, Indeed. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
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