Title: Song of a Captive Bird
Author: Jasmin Darznik
Publisher: Ballantine -Random House Publishing
Publication Date: 13 February 2018
Genre: Multicultural Interest, Historical Fiction, Adult
Song of a Captive Bird carries the fictionalised life of Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhazad. Growing up, Forugh was always taught to sit still, obey and know that societal expectations for women and men would always supersede her dreams and desires. Unfortunately, she gets tied down to a man whom she taught would be her saviour but ends up disappoints her. With the proverbial evil mother-in-law who abhors her to boot, she sets on a path of self-determination through poetry. Along the way, she ends up having an affair to escape her circumstances. Her poems are viewed as by some as brilliant and by others as scandalous-tainted by Western influences.
Hence you might be able to guess that the book’s title comes from the fact that Forough would love to express herself through her poetry but she’s limited to societal norms, rules and expectations. This is quite a pertinent issue since accepting Western traditions was seen as betraying the Persian culture and by extension Islamic religion. Through Forough’s life, Darznik highlights the inner and external conflicts that women in Iran face when navigating life choices while trying to fit in an increasingly globalised world. Darznik does a wonderful laying the scenes of 1950s Iran when they are facing political upheavals due to power changes and oil discoveries in the country against the backdrop of globalisation.
Along with the lyrical writing, the author does a wonderful job of incorporating original bits of Forough’s poetry into the book which gives it a greater feeling of authenticity. Readers who have never been to the Middle East will appreciate her descriptive language and will be transported to a faraway land and time and will empathise with Forough’s situation. Darznik closes Song of a Captive Bird in a unique way which I think would be suicidal for an inexperienced author. However, in her case, she does a good job and as readers, we do get some form of closure.
Note: I am grateful to the publishers for availing this copy via Netgalley in exchange for a free review. The book cover image is also from Netgalley.