Review: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

March 22, 2015 Review 31 ★★★★

Review: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
(Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository)

Publisher: Pantheon Books
Source: Borrowed
Pages: 187
Release Date: 2004
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Comics & Graphic Novels, General, History, Literary, Middle East, Personal Memoirs, Women
Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming--both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.

Edgy, searingly observant, and candid, often heartbreaking but threaded throughout with raw humor and hard-earned wisdom--Persepolis is a stunning work from one of the most highly regarded, singularly talented graphic artists at work today.

rachelI was fairly wary of this book when I picked it up, firstly because it was assigned for school (after reading Jane Eyre, I will now forever doubt this schools ability to choose engaging books), and secondly because it is way out there from my usual genres. Persepolis is a memoir of author Marjane Satrapi’s coming of age story while living in Iran during the 1979 revolution. In addition all of that, it is told in a graphic novel format.

I usually read books that have at least some element of the fantastical, which, as a memoir, Persepolis has none of. I think that the reason I say that I dislike contemporaries is that they are often, at least in my experience, boy meets girl romance stories with not enough plot going on in the background to interest me. Persepolis is nothing like this. There is so much historical information packed in there– and not just the type you can find in a textbook, but actual first hand experiences and viewpoints. We definitely get to see a different, more liberal side of life in Iran during the early 80’s than many people (myself included) expect. I can be interested by pretty much anything historical* so this was definitely the factor that immediately hooked me.

*With the exception of the Renaissance. I am so terribly sick of the Renaissance; in fact, I have spent so much time studying it that I even know how to spell it correctly!

Another thing that really interested me was seeing the way that the narrator interpreted these events, particularly at the start of the book when she is only ten. For most of the book, she has a very limited grasp on what is going on in her country, made even more limited by the mixed signals being sent by her communist parents and her school, which had adopted the strict rules of the Islamist regime. It was fascinating to watch how the politics and violence affected the games she and the other children made up and played.

I feel like I need to talk about the whole graphic novel thing because it was such a foreign format for me. I have nothing in particular against graphic novels, but for whatever reason, I had never read one before this. So I was very surprised when, with the intention of reading only two chapters, I found myself unable to put it down. I was thankful for the large amounts of text above the pictures– I think that I would have had a hard time understanding what was going on without them. I do not know if all graphic novels have this, but I think that I would be hesitant to read one without them. I do think that the pictures contributed to making the story what it was; I think that without them this book would have been a bit ordinary and dull.

So basically, I liked it a lot. I think that is is definitely one of those books that will not erase itself entirely from my memory after a week. There definitely is a lot to think about.(which is probably why it assigned for english class)

I really hope that I did not offend anyone in this review; I was unsure how to label different ruling groups and such. Please tell me if I was in any way insensitive.

Rating Report
Overall: 4.3

31 Responses to “Review: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi”

  1. Killian

    This was the first graphic novel I read too (I’ve now also read the first two volumes of Saga and V For Vendetta, both of which I prefer to this) and I think you enjoyed it a bit more than me. I loved the fist part when she was a child in Iran. I loved how we got to see the country fall apart through the eyes of a child because she had a really unique perspective on it. However, I was a bit underwhelmed by the second part because it wasn’t really anything special. It was definitely lacking in the intensity of the first part, for me anyway. That being said, I did still enjoy this.

    In regards to graphic novels as a whole, it’s a really great medium. Loads of people in the blogging/booktube community seem to be realising just how great they can be and I’m no different. I haven’t read many (as I’ve said, just the first two in Saga and V For Vendetta) but they’re great. I avoided them for ages because I just thought they were all about superheroes, but they’re really not. It’s pretty easy to find tonnes of really inventive comics out there and it’s a very vibrant medium. If you like elements of the fantastical in your stories, give Saga a go. I’m sure you’ve heard others rave about it and I have to say that it lives up to the hype and is batshit insane as well, just for good measure.

    • Rachel

      Thanks for the recommendations! I haven’t actually heard of it, but I will definitely give Saga a go if I can find it in my library (my library is terrible and is 95% factually inaccurate nonfiction from the 1950s and 5% Harry Potter and Hunger Games and picture books (for the four year olds who go to high school, presumably)).

      Yeah, I was told that the second part wasn’t as good as the first, but I haven’t read it. I presume you are talking about the part that takes place in France?

  2. Tanja

    The most amazing things about novels dealing with that part of the world (which I don’t know much about) is that I really learn a lot. I’m glad you managed to meet Iran in a different way. Also it’s more interesting since this is illustrated novel. Great review, Rachel :)
    Tanja recently posted…The Sunday Post (#47)

    • Rachel

      Yeah, I love learning about different places and different parts of history that we usually do not cover in school as well. I took a whole course last semester on the history of the Middle East but we did not talk much about Iran, so it is always interesting to fill in some of those gaps.

      And yes, even when we do learn something like this, a primary account is always more interesting that what the textbook has to say.

    • Rachel

      I hope so! I really liked this, but it was also a bit more challenging to read than a normal book, and I’ve been told that most graphic novels have even less text than this one. So as long as I can understand them, I will read more.

    • Rachel

      I haven’t read any other graphic novels yet so I can’t tell you how this one compares to others, but as a book I think it is pretty good. I’ve only seen a bit of the movie so I can’t really help you there, but I do know that the movie combines both parts of the book so you should probably read both volumes before watching the movie if you plan to read it anyways.

  3. Savindi @ The Streetlight Reader

    I’m so glad you enjoyed Persepolis! It’s one of my all time favourite books. I don’t know if refreshing is the right word to use in the context of the Iranian Revolution, but I do think that it offers readers somewhat of an easier way to grasp the politics of it. Did you read both volumes or was it just volume I? I’ve heard the movie is really great as well!
    Savindi @ The Streetlight Reader recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday- Spreading The Love Around

    • Rachel

      I know they don’t all have that much text– I’m totally afraid of stories that don’t have any text. I think that my brain needs text? At least until I have become more used to the pictures telling the story? I tried to read a thing on tumblr (Webcomic? Webseries? Web-graphic-novel? Whatever it’s called) that didn’t have any words and I just got really confused.

  4. Sarah @ One Curvy Blogger

    Even though this is non-fiction, I totally think it’s cool that your school assigned you a graphic novel to read. I think I could deal with non-fiction memoirs a lot better in graphic novel format and really enjoyed your review. I might try to pick this up, because I am always intrigued by history and political pieces, even though I don’t so much like to read about it in fiction. :)
    Sarah @ One Curvy Blogger recently posted…Sunday Post #18

    • Rachel

      Yeah, I do think the format definitely lent a hand to the collective interest in this book among my peers. Personally the graphic novel concept itself was a bit of a turn off before reading it but now that I have read it, I would agree with you that it was more interesting that a straight text version would be. Also, way more original.

  5. Cat

    I loved the movie adaptation for this title so much and I’m sure the book is even better! your school is so cool for assigning this types of books! I wish mine did the same. awesome review Rachel!

    • Rachel

      *snort* My school’s not that great. We had to read Jane Eyre ALL OF FIRST SEMESTER. I’m not proud of it, but that was the first time I have ever used Sparknotes for a book instead of reading it. Also the teachers don’t believe in character or thematic analysis, only literary devices, but that’s a different story…

      I’ve seen the beginning of the movie and I’ve been sort of meaning to watch the rest sometime… good to know you liked it!

    • Rachel

      Hi other Rachel. I’m glad we like the same books.

      (Or if you prefer serious comments: Glad you liked it!)
      (But that’s boring)

    • Rachel

      I am rather curious about the movie, having only seen a few minutes of it but enjoying the part I saw. I should watch the rest. I wonder if it is on Netflix? And you should read the book!

  6. Faye M.

    I rarely read memoirs but this sounds really profound and engaging. I’ve read Khaleed Hosseini’s fiction books that were set in the 70-80s of Afghanistan and even there it showed how their society back then isn’t all backwards as we oftentimes are led to believe by the media, and that aspect really interested me the most in your review of this novel. I will have to give this a try!
    Faye M. recently posted…ARC Review: 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

    • Rachel

      Yeah, it is always interesting to read primary sources and compare that to what we see in our media. I have a friend in Israel who I email sometimes, and it is really quite interesting how differently the Israeli political matters are presented to the public there vs here in the US. The recent election in Israel is a prime example of this since Netanyahu and Obama don’t have the best of relationships, and this affects the way our news sources (especially the left wing ones that I prefer to read) portray Netanyahu. That said, he did make some very racist comments JUST TO GAIN VOTES FROM PEOPLE WHO OBVIOUSLY AGREE WITH SAID RACIST COMMENTS SINCE HIS APPROVAL WENT UP RIGHT AFTER HE SAID THEM.

      … Sorry. I got off topic. You should try Persepolis!

  7. Angie

    This book is amazing. I am so glad you liked it and hope that you try out more graphic novels. If you need some suggestions for some graphic novels let me know. I read so many of them. One of the best places to test them out is on Netgalley. You can find some great ones there.
    Angie recently posted…Bloggiesta Spring 2015

    • Rachel

      I’m glad you liked it too! Thanks for the offer/advice, but I just got back from spring break and may have purchased about six new books at my favorite bookstore, so I expect those will keep me busy for a while. If I ever have the urge to read a graphic novel though, I’ll definitely check out Netgalley!

    • Rachel

      I’ve seen the first ten minutes of the movie, and from what I have seen, it does look good. I will get around to watching the rest…sometime…

  8. Valerie

    Oh I had no idea Persepolis was in graphic novel format, wait or maybe I did. Anyways, that’s cool that you read it for school! I read Maus, which is also a graphic novel set in WWII featuring mice (haha) but it was really good too. I think I would be really interested in this because of the history topic (and since it’s a memoir).

    Thanks for the review Rachel!
    Valerie recently posted…ARC Review: Seeker

    • Rachel

      Oh wow, that sounds really weird but kind of cool! A book about WWII with everyone replaced by mice? I shall have to check that out. Yeah, the historical stuff is really what makes this book. I hope you enjoy it if you do read it eventually!

  9. Paranoid Puppet

    Hey! I am commenting here, for the bloggers commenting back post! I love the idea and I want to be a part of it too! I am commenting it here because for some reason the comment box doesn’t appear for me on the post. I hope this is not too weird ^-^

    BTW, I really want to read this book ^-^ <3

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