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Marjane Satrapi – Embroideries

July 6, 2010

70. Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi (2005)

Length: 144 pages
Genre: Graphic Novel, Non-Fiction/mini-Memoir
Started / Finished: 21 June 2010

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I enjoyed Persepolis, so I wanted to see what else Satrapi had done.

Gossip is gossip,
and it’s pretty much the same
wherever you go.

Summary: Marjane, her mother, her grandmother, her aunt, and their friends gather for an afternoon of tea and conversation, and, as groups of women are wont to do, they wind up discussing men, love, sex, and marriage both in and out of Iran, and swapping stories of faked virginities, infidelities, plastic surgeries, and arranged marriages.

Review: Graphic novels work because they strike a balance between text and picture, with each complementing the other, and the combination adding something more than the sum of their parts. There’s a delicate balance between what parts of the story you tell through words, and what parts through pictures, but when a graphic novel is done right, that balancing act should be invisible. In Embroideries, there’s a distinct imbalance between the words and the pictures, and the words are clearly winning. It’s a very text-heavy book, but just enough is told through the pictures that I can’t really call it an illustrated story, either, and this imbalance wasn’t what I was expecting, and didn’t sit quite comfortably with me as I read it. The stories themselves were interesting enough, although not particularly meaty. It sort of seemed like the take-home message was “Iranian women talk about sex, too,” which… I think I already knew that from reading Reading Lolita in Tehran. 3 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: It was cute and fast-reading and interesting enough, but it’s not nearly up to the standard Satrapi set for herself with Persepolis.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: American Bibliophile, Beth Fish Reads, Estella’s Revenge, Joyfully Retired, A Striped Arm Chair, Things Mean a Lot, Valentina’s Room
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: “It was really delicious! Thank you.”

12 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2010 7:21 am

    I hate it when that delicate balance is destroyed- it makes me want to tell the author to pick a medium, quite honestly.

    • July 6, 2010 10:02 am

      Omni – I wonder if part of my problem here was that the text is written out kind of sloppily. If it had been printed, or at least more neatly lettered, I might have had a better time accepting the balance.

  2. July 6, 2010 8:27 am

    Sorry to hear it wasn’t as good as Persepolis. I really enjoyed Persepolis, but I might not bother with this one.

    • July 6, 2010 10:04 am

      vivienne – There’s also an argument of investment vs. reward to be made here, too: I didn’t love it, but it also didn’t take very long to read, and all in all, I can think of a lot worse ways to spend an hour.

  3. July 6, 2010 9:38 am

    I’ve been interested in reading this since I read Persepolis, so I’m disappointed to see it’s not that great.

    • July 6, 2010 10:05 am

      bermudaonion – I think it’s still worth checking out, I’d just get it from the library, or at least giving it a heavy browse in the bookstore before dropping money on it.

  4. July 6, 2010 1:44 pm

    I read Embroideries before Persepolis, but it was recommended as a nice aside to her earlier work; a brief glimpse into the female world of Iran.

    I found it tricky to keep straight who was whom.

    You are right, it is a quick read if you’d like it to be, and a nice way to spend an hour.

    • July 12, 2010 9:36 am

      L – I also had a hard time keeping the characters straight, even though I’d encountered many of them before in Persepolis.

  5. July 6, 2010 5:44 pm

    I didn’t like the other (non-Persepolis) book of Satrapi’s I read, Chicken with Plums, so I haven’t bothered with Embroideries thus far. I like gossipy talky books but you’re right, that sort of thing isn’t suited to the graphic novel format.

    • July 12, 2010 9:37 am

      Jenny – I think my library’s got Chicken with Plums, but between not being too impressed with this one, and being on a little bit of graphic-novel-burnout, I’m not exactly clamoring to lay hands on it.

  6. July 6, 2010 10:55 pm

    Interesting. Fizzy Thoughts reviewed this one today too. She didn’t love Persepolis, but enjoyed this one. And you had the opposite response. I love the blogosphere for this very reason – so many different opinions. Thanks for sharing.

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