This is the first graphic novel I’ve read. There, I’ve admitted it. I can’t explain why it has taken me so long to read one. It’s not that I think they’re childish or ‘not real literature’ or anything like that; it had just never occurred to me to read them and until I started blogging I didn’t even realise how popular they were. When I did decide I’d like to try one I thought a graphic memoir might be the best to start with and as I’d seen Persepolis reviewed on so many blogs it seemed a good choice. And it was, because I loved it.
This edition is actually two books in one: The Story of a Childhood and The Story of a Return. They can be bought separately but you really need to read the first book before the second.
These two books are the memoirs of Marjane Satrapi. In The Story of a Childhood she tells us what it’s like to be a child growing up in Iran during the 1970s and 80s. Due to the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War, Iran becomes an oppressive and often dangerous place to live, particularly as Marjane develops into a rebellious teenager. Her concerned parents eventually decide that the safest option is to send their daughter away to start a new life in Europe.
Before beginning this book, I didn’t know very much at all about Iranian history and politics. I found that seeing things through a child’s eyes was fascinating and informative. Marji is an intelligent, imaginative girl and like all children she’s always curious and full of questions, so for someone who knows very little about Iran, this book offers an opportunity to learn along with Marji.
In the second volume, Marji is living in Austria, struggling to adapt to life in a country with an entirely different culture. This second book is more about the personal problems she faces with relationships, drugs and money and although I had a lot of sympathy for the situation she was in, I didn’t enjoy reading this book as much as the first one. I did find it more interesting towards the end when she finally returns to Iran several years later and finds she has as much trouble fitting back into her old life as she’d had fitting into life in Austria.
Although this was definitely a new experience for me, I was quickly able to forget that I was reading a ‘graphic novel’ and become absorbed in Marjane Satrapi’s story. The simple, stark black and white drawings were perfect and made it easy to understand what was happening. Rather than just illustrating the text, the pictures played an equally important part in telling the story.
I enjoyed this book much more than I expected to. It was a powerful and moving story, with some moments of humour too. So, if you are also new to graphic novels and unsure where to start, I have no hesitation in recommending this one to you!