Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani
This astonishing and beautifully-written book shines a light on the plight of political protesters during the 1980s in Iran – a time of brutal crackdowns by the regime, a time of violence, imprisonment, and in some cases, death. It also follows the children of the activists and the impact on their young lives. The novel follows a series of characters from the 1980s until the present day.
A young married woman, Azar, gives birth to a baby girl in the depths of Tehran’s Evin Prison in harrowing circumstances. She doesn’t know if her husband is alive or not, or if she will be allowed to keep her baby.
Outside the prison, Maryam, tries to protect her young daughter from knowing that her father was executed. The only thing she has left of him is the bracelet of date stones that he made before his death, a bracelet for his daughter they managed to smuggle out during a rare visit. But instead of giving her daughter the bracelet, Maryam tries to bury the past and she tells her that her father died of an illness as they forge out a new life in exile. Maryam spends years trying to live with her unspoken grief until the truth finally comes out. There are other children too, abandoned when their parents are arrested and brought up with other family members. The ghosts of revolution cast a long shadow on everyone’s lives.
This is a novel about trying to create a new future when the past is mired in sadness. The author was born in Iran in the 1980s and it is clear that she has woven many true events from her own family history into this deeply affecting novel.