This is not always an easy book to read or to like. Its episodic, it jumps around, at times the narrator inserts herself so thoroughly into the foreground that she's all you can see. The match between the lives of women in the revolutionary republic of Iran and such hoary classics as Pride and Prejudice, Daisy Miller, The Great Gatsby sometimes seems tenuous and odd. At times Nafisi makes pronouncements that don't seem to me to follow from the tale she was telling.
But I think its actually the things that make it difficult that also make it rewarding. This is what it says it is; A Memoir. Its not a polished and orderly explication of the political and social history of modern Iran. Its a very personal evocation of one woman's jumbled, confusing, contradictory, and difficult experience of a painful time that she survived in part through studying great literature with other women. At the time of this writing I don't think she had yet entirely made sense of that experience and so it takes some work on the reader's part to try to comprehend the confusion.
In the end I failed to entirely create order out of the chaos but honestly I think it would be less of a book if I had succeeded. How do you make sense of life in a country in which the movie censor is blind, in which proctors monitor a concert to be certain no one including the musicians, shows too much enthusiasm. How can you make sense of a place in which some people are executed for some minor infraction, some simply vanish for reasons unknown, while others escape punishment entirely. But this is your homeland, a place you loved, had great hopes for and eventually find it necessary to leave.
To make a polished orderly story out of this would I think be dishonest to the experience. So somehow the jumble and the confusion and the strange connections all work for me. I don't feel I read a textbook about Iran I feel that I met one Iranian woman. Flawed in places but interesting and challenging and something I walk away from still thinking hard.