Persepolis – Gripping Until the End

I am not one for the war genre. I often shy from this genre, as the true stories of the worst humanity has to offer is usually too much for me to stomach. So it came as a surprise to me that when a friend suggested I read Persepolis  I devoured it in a day. Persepolis  is a quick satisfying read, and one of the most unique books I have read as it takes its form in a graphic novel. Reading about Marjane Satrapi’s youth in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution in comic form makes the heady subject easier to digest, and rather, quite entertaining. The format is brilliant, as it relates the reader quickly to the main character – Satrapi herself – and immerses the reader into her world. It makes a very difficult subject and history easily approachable. The comic format also mirrors the juxtaposition of the modern with the ancient: the outdated mores of a religion taking over a very modern society. As the people Satrapi knows – and especially herself – lose more of their freedoms with each passing year, the stark black and white inking of the art reflects this severity of contrasts. Old versus new. Age versus youth. Freedom versus imprisonment. Although the book is entirely from Satrapi’s point of view as a child, I identified with the parents, growing more and more afraid of the forces that were closing in and threatening their way of life. I wanted them to be safe, but also to fight and be revolutionaries, defending freedom and liberty. I was truly wrapped up in the characters, and the war closing in around them. Although the artwork is beautiful in its simplicity – the emotion of the characters is clear and heart wrenching. What makes the story of  Persepolis so unique however, is the levity Sartrapi injects into the dire circumstances she faced as a child. There are jokes sprinkled throughout the book, and this reminded me of the amazing resilience of the human spirit. Even through a life of  fear, control and death, the characters can find some humor, a bit of light. This element gives the story buoyancy without mitigating the graveness of the events. Until the humor becomes a crutch for the characters – proof of their denial in an ever darkening world. The story is quick, the characters fleshed out and so very real in their complexity and in the end, you will find yourself punched in the gut. I closed the book and just sat there, silent, with tears running down my face. I was left feeling sad, touched and hopeful. I heartily recommend.