Sunday, October 04, 2009


Written and Illustrated by Marjane Satrapi
Translated from the French by Anjali Singh
Original title:  Broderies
Non-Fiction/Memoir/Graphic Novel, 2003 (France), 2005 (English translation)
Pantheon Books, hardcover, 132 p.
From the best-selling author of Persepolis comes this gloriously entertaining and enlightening look into the sex lives of Iranian women. Embroideries gathers together Marjane’s tough-talking grandmother, stoic mother, glamorous and eccentric aunt and their friends and neighbors for an afternoon of tea drinking and talking. Naturally, the subject turns to love, sex and the vagaries of men.

As the afternoon progresses, these vibrant women share their secrets, their regrets and their often outrageous stories about, among other things, how to fake one’s virginity, how to escape an arranged marriage, how to enjoy the miracles of plastic surgery and how to delight in being a mistress. By turns revealing and hilarious, these are stories about the lengths to which some women will go to find a man, keep a man or, most importantly, keep up appearances.

Full of surprises, this introduction to the private lives of some fascinating women, whose life stories and lovers and will strike us as at once deeply familiar and profoundly different from our own, is sure to bring smiles of recognition to the faces of women everywhere – and to teach us all a thing or two.                                              [From the dust jacket]
It’s been a few years since I read the Persepolis books and I enjoyed returning to Marjane’s world. Plus, having recently read a couple of non-fiction books about the lives of women in Japan, it was quite interesting to then read this short graphic novel about the lives of women in Iran, and to notice some of the similarities and the obvious differences. Reading this short graphic novel was a little like being a fly on the wall while the women gossiped and shared stories of their own loves and losses and disappointments. The black and white drawings were again in Marjane’s simple, yet vibrant style and my only complaint is that since it’s such a short novel, it was over far too quickly. I would’ve been happy to stay with the women for a while longer and hearing more about their lives.

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click on the images to enlarge

Marjane Satrapi Returns: An Interview at Powell's Books
An Interview with Marjane Satrapi at Bookslut

Buy this book at: | | | |

My Rating: 4/5
(#48 for 2009, Non-Fiction Five Challenge, Orbis Terrarum Challenge, Graphic Novels Challenge, Lost in Translation Challenge, Herding Cats II Challenge)

Also reviewed at:
A High and Hidden Place: Tales of a Capricious Reader: It was like sitting with your best friends and trying to out-shock each other but also a glimpse into another culture, another life, so familiar and so unfamiliar from my own.
Books of Mee: The art style is simpler than Persepolis in a glance, but it’s entertaining indeed.
Lotus Reads: While the book didn't bore me into a stupor, it did nothing to entertain me either... In the book's favor, I will say that the drawings are creative and vivid and I loved that the author opted for a non-grid layout---it made the book seem more of a novel and less of a cartoon.
things mean a lot: Embroideries is a very quick read, but it’s one that stays with you. It’s more lighthearted than Persepolis, and so it doesn’t quite have the same emotional impact, but it touches important issues all the same.
Tripping Toward Lucidity: What's most apparent in all of Satrapi's work is how universal our human experiences are.
Valentina's Room: I recommend this book wholeheartedly. It's clever, bold, and definitely too damn short!
The Written World: She infuses humour into the telling and brings to life women who have had to deal with things that we can only begin to imagine in the western world. At the same time, though, it is not that different from the way things are here. I think we forget that sometimes, so it was wonderful for Satrapi to humanize the story.
The Zen Leaf: I loved the simplicity of the artwork and style, and the simplicity of the story itself, which was nothing more than conversation... It reminded me of get-togethers with my cousins.
If you've reviewed this title too, let me know and I'll link to it here.

Continuing in the same vein, a couple of weeks ago we watched the animation film of Persepolis and they really did a fabulous job of bringing the comic book to life! Marjane Satrapi was apparently very involved in the production of the film and seeing that the film accurately depicted her story, and it really shows. My husband isn’t a fan of typical animation (superheroes, mystical creatures and whatnot) but I told him it was a different kind of anime so he agreed to watch it with me and he ended up really enjoying it. He commented that they never really heard much about the problems in Iran and the Middle East, in Japan when he was growing up. As an adult now, he’s much more interested in international politics so he found it really quite interesting. Well worth watching! I heard she's now working on a film version of Chicken with Plums. I still need to read that one, but I'll definitely be interested in seeing it once it's out.


  1. I really loved Persepolis so I've had this one on my radar. So to know that it's so short, though--even with Persepolis I was left wanting more and more. I just love her illustrations.

    I haven't heard as much about Chicken with Plums--does it run along the same vein as these books?

  2. I have added this to my wishlist (my library doesn't have a copy :() as it sounds extremely interesting. I really enjoyed Persepolis and planning on watching the film adaptation soon.

  3. Such a coincidence! I've held this book in my hand just 2 hours ago... I went to buy a graphic novel (my first!) for the 24 hrs read-a-thon later this month but picked Persepolis instead. I've been wanting to watch the film but it woll be more fun if I've read the book first!

    Some other GREAT animation is Waltz with Bashir. It might become the best film I've seen this year! And I am not usually an animation lover...

  4. So glad you liked this one! I enjoyed it very much, as you already know, and can't wait for her to release more material.

    I had the film version of Persepolis from the library, but I had to take it back unwatched. Thanks for reminding me to check it out again!

    Oh, and sadly, Chicken with Plums is her only work I haven't been able to get through. Maybe it was a mood thing.

  5. I haven't been able to find a copy of Embroideries in the stores. It looks like I'll have to venture online for it. Not that I have a problem with that. :-) Thank you for your great review, Nat. It really does sound like a worthwhile read.

    I haven't yet seen the movie version of Persepolis. I am glad to hear it turned out so well.

    I hope you have a great week, Nat!

  6. It was over much too soon, but I enjoyed it while it lasted! I still haven't watched the movie version of Persepolis...must amend that!

  7. Asides from the Persepolis books, I've heard very little about anything else she'd done. Thanks!

  8. I have never seen the film. I should do so!

  9. Trish - I don't know a lot about Chicken for Plums either but supposedly it's about her great-uncle who was a well-known musician.

    Claire - I thought the film was really well done, I hope you enjoy it.

    gnoegnoe - LOL. That is a funny coincidence. It's good to start with Persepolis I think, then you can read Embroideries later already knowing some of the characters.
    I've heard of Waltz with Bashir but haven't seen it. I must add it to my list.

    Andi - You should definitely watch the film! That's too bad that you couldn't get into Chicken with Plums. One of these days I'll have to give it a go.

    Wendy - It's a very worthwhile read even though it is too short. :P
    I actually got my copy from a bargain table at one of the bookstores in Victoria when I was in Canada last winter. I usually try to just buy Canadian books that are harder to find here or online when I'm there but I couldn't NOT buy this when I saw it!

    Nymeth - Exactly! I would have enjoyed reading more, but it was very good all the same.

    John Mutford - You're welcome. I hope you get a chance to try one of her other books.

    Kelly - You should! It was a lot of fun.


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