Skip to main content

In the Walled Gardens


In the Walled Gardens

Not long before the revolution begins in Iran, Reza Nirvani catches site of Mahastee Mosharraf, his childhood love, at a crowded outdoor concert. Although they have not seen each other since the night in Mahastee's family's garden 20 years earlier, their lives soon become, once again, enmeshed. Anahita Firouz's IN THE WALLED GARDENS is a rich first novel; a dramatic tale of love, family, and political upheaval that centers on the lives of Reza and Mahastee and the fate of their nation. In the years since they last met, Reza has become a teacher but has dedicated his life to revolutionary action, and Mahastee has become a wife and mother of two, remaining sheltered from the social and political tensions in Iran by the position of her aristocratic family. Still, Mahastee is disappointed, frustrated, and bored by her loveless marriage and eventually turns her attention to the case of a young man in prison. As Reza and Mahastee find common political ground and remember their shared history, old romantic feelings are stirred.

The reunion of Reza and Mahastee is ostensibly the focus of the novel. But this is complicated by another storyline; the story of pre-Revolutionary Iran. Reza and Mahastee are united in their knowledge that the government is being corrupted and that there is a growing underground force of dissidents ready to overthrow the Shah. Tensions grow among foreigners, here represented by the smarmy Thierry, the aristocratic class, the leftists, and the non-political Iranians, as the country moves toward a revolution. Danger and intrigue fill the pages but compete with the beautifully told story of the Mosharraf and the Nirvani families. Both Reza and Mahastee are dedicated to their families while struggling with the inherited legacy of their social class.

IN THE WALLED GARDENS delicately balances these various themes without providing easy answers to the ethical questions it poses. Both Reza and Mahastee narrate, and thus, their two worlds are further illuminated. The social, historical, political and religious implications are complex, but Firouz has encased them in a bittersweet tale of unrequited love and family loyalty. Violent, frightening and still tender and passionate, Firouz's debut is unique in its fictional subject matter and poetic in its prose. She allows the reader a glimpse into a turbulent time in the history of one nation. This novel will surely inspire many readers to delve deeper into the political and social history of Iran. Iran's diversity is illustrated as the characters navigate both the glamorous world of the powerful upper class and the dark corners of Tehran with Marxist radicals. IN THE WALLED GARDENS takes readers on a remarkable journey back to an era both dark and hopeful and introduces two likable yet conflicted characters.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 22, 2011

In the Walled Gardens
by Anahita Firouz

  • Publication Date: August 11, 2003
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books
  • ISBN-10: 0316169013
  • ISBN-13: 9780316169011