Book Review: ‘The Complete Persepolis’ by Marjane Satrapi

Posted: 22 January 2016 in Book reviews
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Marjane Satrapi gives her first person account of growing up in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. As a child (pre-1980), Iran was controlled by the iron fists of religious extremism. In 1980, a form of ‘cultural revolution’ emerged which turned their lives upside down. Veils were imposed, sexes were separated, and symbols of the capitalistic West were removed. Demonstrations were held resulting in many deaths. The people, like Marji’s parents, fought to dethrone the king. They succeeded in exiling the king, but life didn’t get better. In fact it got much worse.

At first, political prisoners were released and things seemed to improve. Then these people were murdered, including Marji’s uncle. The fundamentalists began enforcing their ideals, universities were closed and education revised, international travel was banned, veils were enforced, and anyone who opposed this were either beaten or killed. Then Iran went to war disrupting their lives even further. Kids were drafted with the lying promise of paradise, anything Western was now illegal, people turned against each other, food and supplies were scarce. Basically, life was anything but ideal.

When Marji was fourteen she was sent to school in Austria. Everything was vastly different from what she was used to. She lived there for four years. For a while things were good. She eventually made some friends, spent her first christmas with her roommate’s family, and expanded her knowledge. Then Marji got evicted from her boarding house and moved in with her friend Julie. From there she bounced from place to place, gaining more education and attempting to assimilate the culture. After ending up homeless and on the verge of death, she realised it was time to return to Iran.

Despite being happy to be home, she soon realised that she was as alone there as she had been in Austria. She struggled to cope, resorting to an unsuccessful suicide attempt. From there she took her future into her own hands. She improved her life, became an aerobics instructor, and eventually landed a spot at university. But even then, she seemed to forget who she really was until she stood up to their oppressors regaining some of her pride and dignity. As she struggled to fight for a better life for her and those around her, she learned that freedom doesn’t come without a heavy price. Sometimes it requires you to lose a bit of yourself before you can truly find it.

My Thoughts

Once again, I got this book as part of a book club recommendation and was quite unaware at what I was getting. Needless to say, it was a different and interesting change from the books I typically read.

The biggest aspect that made this book enjoyable to read was that it is basically a graphic novel. Now I’m no art critic, but hopefully I can adequately relay my thoughts. The artwork is good, but by no means amazing. But that’s what makes it work. The story is about a young girl growing up under the tyrannical thumb of the Iranian government. The artwork has a very juvenile feel that suits its purpose. I think it also keeps it from feeling like an entertainment piece like graphic novels generally are. Each frame is expressive and effectively detailed.

It’s hard to comment on the characters when they are real people. You can’t just remark that they aren’t adequately developed (which I am definitely not saying) or otherwise. The characters come and go in the events of her life and each one lived and died or at some point will die. From Uncle Anoosh to gay boyfriend Enrique, her mother and father and childhood best friend Pouneh. They aren’t fictional representations, but people who were/are a part of the author’s life. Besides that, the artwork lends to the characters so that very little description is needed. You already have a visual so words are unnecessary. Even the background events are depicted visually. That leaves the freedom to focus on dialogue and driving the story forward.

As for the words, I found it very easy to read. The words are simple and direct enough, which is perfect for a graphic novel. The lettering is good as well. Graphic novels tend to use much different fonts than traditional novels making the words sometimes very challenging to decipher. My only issue was the lack of translation. Some of the foreign phrases were translated, but not all. Thankfully I can speak german so that part wasn’t an issue for me, but for others it might be.

I really enjoyed this book. It was real, it was raw, and it let me see a side of a life so completely different than mine. This book has helped me be more appreciative of the freedoms I have that I have not had to fight for. I highly recommend this book. Enjoy 🙂

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  1. […] Week 2 – The Complete Persepolis […]


  2. […] 3 of the remaining 5 were started, but not finished. I got one of the two reviews posted (here), worked out once (mostly thwarted due to the snowstorm), and played an hour or two of Lego LotR. […]


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