A BITTER VEIL – Libby Fischer Hellman Review by Gloria Feit)

THE BITTER VEIL is another view of life in the Middle East.  Set during the revolution in Iran, it looks at the circumstances of life for women who are suddenly pushed back into the rigid rules forced on women under Islamic Law.

In a departure from her popular Ellie Foreman and Georgia Davis
series, Libby Fischer Hellmann leaves Chicago with a fascinating and
obviously well-researched novel set at the time of the Iranian
Revolution in the late 1970’s.  Her protagonist, Anna Schroder, an
English major at the University of Chicago, also leaves that town, in
January of 1977, after a passionate romance with Nouri Samedi, a
handsome engineering student who quotes poetry to her and sweeps her
off her feet.  The reader knows literally from the opening pages that
things will not end well.

Nouri is the only son whose parents are wealthy and well-connected.
Anna longs for a loving family – her parents divorced when she was
five, and her mother moved back to her native Paris; her German
father, a scientist – with whom she hadn’t had contact in a long time
– is in America.  When she and Nouri decide to marry despite their
apparent cultural differences, they move to Tehran, where unrest and
demonstrations against the Shah are beginning.  Within a few short
months, the military government resigns, the Shah is forced out, and
Ayatollah Khomeini and the Republican Guard have taken over.  They
want nothing less than to purge Iran of all traces of the shah.  The
repercussions, for any opposed to the new rule of law, especially
among those from America, the “Great Satan,” are profound.  Anna is
told by an Iranian bookseller, who is forced to keep hidden away any
counter-revolutionary poetry or books by such as e.e. cummings or
William Shakespeare not already confiscated, “We have been victims for
years.  Invaders, the shah, now the revolution.  It is all the same.”

The background of that area of the world and the “complicated history
of Islam” provided by the author is extremely interesting.  Nouri,
discussing the volatile situation with his childhood friend, says
“yes, we opposed the shah.  But our goal was a democratic government,
not an Islamist republic.  Don’t you remember?”  We are told that the
people “long for Iran to create a parliamentary democracy.  It would
be a blessing for the people of Iran, the Middle East, the entire
world.  But Khomeini has made it clear that’s not his priority.”
Things reach a fevered pitch, and Anna doesn’t know who can be
trusted.

Those looking for the mystery element usually found in this author’s
books will not be disappointed, for there is a murder and a
surrounding mystery along the way.  The book is completely absorbing,
and is recommended.

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