Focus on The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree - International Booker Prize 2020

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The International Booker Prize is awarded every year for a single book that is translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. It aims to encourage more publishing and reading of quality fiction from all over the world and to promote the work of translators.

The full shortlist of six titles can be found here, but in this series of articles we will look at each title in detail.

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree

An extraordinarily powerful and evocative literary novel set in Iran in the period immediately after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Using the lyrical magic realism style of classical Persian storytelling, Azar draws the reader deep into the heart of a family caught in the maelstrom of post-revolutionary chaos and brutality that sweeps across an ancient land and its people. The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is really an embodiment of Iranian life in constant oscillation, struggle, and play between four opposing poles: life and death; politics and religion. The sorrow residing in the depths of our joy is the product of a life between these four poles.

Caerwys WI Book Browsers

About the group

We are a new group of (currently) 12 women who all belong to Caerwys Women’s Institute. The Browsers was set up in January 2020 as one of a series of subgroups to try to increase interest, diversity and membership of the WI and certainly worked as we have had 3 members join specifically to come to the book group. The group follows no particular genre or authors or time period but members suggest books to read and we select from that, we particularly welcome suggestions from outside and will give most things a try. So far we have read The Familiars by Stacey Halls, The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce and The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd. We meet monthly in member’s homes.

Thoughts on the book

Just finished reading the Greengage tree. Wow, what a wild read.Written beautifully, certainly didn’t understand it all but nearly cried at the end.Touching and heartbreaking. This is when a book club is such a good thing. I would never have chosen to read it or kept on reading in the beginning but I’m glad I did.
Tricia Vaughan

Complex and a difficult start but this book delivers and is well worth pursuing, I think it takes a little while to get used to other cultural styles and also to a translator you don’t know. It was a shocking start and one that made me want to know more. It is beautifully written. Certain lines stand out such as Aunt Turan’s statement ‘nobody wants us’ and strange images like the padlocked refrigerators. There is fear and suffering but insight too. ‘Once your eyes get accustomed to seeing violence in the city streets and squares they can only get more accustomed,. Gradually you’ll turn into your enemy: the very person who spread the violence’. Though a work of fiction this book seems very real, I urge you to read it. Sonia Hawes

I found this book difficult to read and engage with. It was challenging to follow, particularly the first half of the book. To me, it didn’t become clear as to who the main characters were. I did engage more with the human stories of the lives of the individuals following the Revolution and the political turmoil and oppression, of the aftermath. Overall, I found it a laborious read, due to the peculiar style of narration. It was very confusing and having completed I am not sure I fully got it.The last few chapters did bring a bit of clarity. Sue Varley

Get involved

Have you read The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree? Do you want to know what other readers thought? Leave your own review online.

Want to know more? Download a Readers’ Guide for The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, including information about the author, as well as some discussion notes and themed reading.

Find out about the other books on the shortlist.


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