Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

(Last Updated On: June 25, 2019)

About the Book

Publisher: Ballantine Books  |  Release Date: February 13, 2018  |  Pages: 401
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction  |  Format: eARC  |  Source: Publisher via Netgalley

A spellbinding debut novel about the trailblazing poet Forugh Farrokhzhad, who defied Iranian society to find her voice and her destiny

“Remember the flight, for the bird is mortal.”—Forugh Farrokhzad

All through her childhood in Tehran, Forugh is told that Iranian daughters should be quiet and modest. She is taught only to obey, but she always finds ways to rebel—gossiping with her sister among the fragrant roses of her mother’s walled garden, venturing to the forbidden rooftop to roughhouse with her three brothers, writing poems to impress her strict, disapproving father, and sneaking out to flirt with a teenage paramour over café glacé. It’s during the summer of 1950 that Forugh’s passion for poetry really takes flight—and that tradition seeks to clip her wings.

Forced into a suffocating marriage, Forugh runs away and falls into an affair that fuels her desire to write and to achieve freedom and independence. Forugh’s poems are considered both scandalous and brilliant; she is heralded by some as a national treasure, vilified by others as a demon influenced by the West. She perseveres, finding love with a notorious filmmaker and living by her own rules—at enormous cost. But the power of her writing grows only stronger amid the upheaval of the Iranian revolution.

Inspired by Forugh Farrokhzad’s verse, letters, films, and interviews—and including original translations of her poems—Jasmin Darznik has written a haunting novel, using the lens of fiction to capture the tenacity, spirit, and conflicting desires of a brave woman who represents the birth of feminism in Iran—and who continues to inspire generations of women around the world.

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My Review

Breathtaking and powerful, Song of a Captive Bird is an incredible piece of literature. The novel transports the reader to Iran in the 1940s and 1950s and offers a fictionalized account of the life of Forugh Farrokzhad, a woman who disregarded tradition and found her voice through poetry.

I had a difficult time putting the book down, falling asleep with it in my hands two nights in a row.As a person not well versed in Iranian history or literature/poetry, I found myself captivated by Darznik’s portrayal of Forugh and felt transported in time. The narrative flows like prose, and the fictionalized telling of Forugh’s life is paired with the political and cultural issues of the time. It is clear that Darznik has conducted countless hours of research, and I learned a lot about Iran during the time period.

I really enjoyed Darznik’s style of writing and exposition: foreshadowing that constantly hooked me back in and wanting to see what would happen next. In my opinion this style of writing is difficult to execute and rarely works, but as a person without prior knowledge of the source material it kept me engaged.

Themes of freedom, friendship, love, pursuing that which brings you joy, and not silencing yourself. This novel brings to life a woman who inspired the feminist movement in Iran, and I cannot recommend this book enough.

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher, Ballantine Books, for the digital arc in exchange for my honest review. 

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