Click here to read reviewer Douglas R. Cobb's take on The Blood of Flowers.
This quietly powerful novel explores humanity’s capacity for dealing with life’s inequities, the natural inclination to rise above the constrictions of society to create a world transfused with beauty and accomplishment.
Set in 17th-century Persia, The Blood of Flowers’ protagonist, a fourteen-year-old girl, remains anonymous throughout, a symbol of her position in a restrictive society but also part of the great sisterhood who strive daily for a better existence. The appearance of an evil comet is the subject for much disturbance in the girl’s village, especially when the mullah declares, “On the topic of marriages, those contracted later this year will be full of passion and strife.”
Ever since she was a small child, treasured by parents who are profoundly grateful to have her after years of childlessness, the girl has loved the art of carpetmaking. Her first clumsy attempts gradually gain recognition for their accomplishment, tying endless knots as her mother tells ancient fables to fill the days and quiet nights with stories of the past.
Still a young man, her father dies unexpectedly, mother and daughter surviving for a time on their simple rations and the kindness of neighbors. Soon, though, they are forced to leave the tiny village for shelter under the roof of their only living relative, a carpetmaker of great skill and renown in Isfahan. Gostaham is pleased to realize his young kinswoman’s talent in the design and execution of fine carpets and agrees to train her in his workshop, subject to the needs of his wife, the household duties that will be required of the newcomers.
Favored by the Shah and his wives, Gostaham is a master of the ancient art who has made a fortune with his brilliant designs and myriad colors. He explains the philosophy of artisans such as himself: “Our response to cruelty, suffering and sorrow is to remind the world of the face of beauty.”
Of marriageable age, the young woman is haunted by the predictions of the comet as well as fearful about contracting a respectable good union. With no dowry and only her virtue as a bargaining tool, the girl is trapped in a conundrum. All she wants is to marry well and protect her mother, but she dreams of hours spent with Gostaham, creating the wondrous carpets that will establish her fame.
Unlikely to make a propitious marriage, the girl listens to the advice of her relatives and accepts a sigheh, a three-month marriage contract with a wealthy man. By selling her virtue cheaply, she is thrust into a precarious future, one where she may be rejected by her husband and her only friend, cast aside with her mother into abject poverty.
At the mercy of a society that views her as insignificant, her gender a hindrance in her chosen field, the girl finds herself at a crossroads between despair and hope. In this haunting tale, woven through with ancient fables, a young girl of no value carves a place in an indifferent world, invisible in her womanhood but magnificent in her courage, rising above her circumstances to fulfill her destiny.