Book Review #16: To Keep The Sun Alive by Rabeah Ghaffari (2019)

My review: 4 out of 5 ⭐️
Title: To Keep The Sun Alive: A Novel
Author: Rabeah Ghaffari
Published: 2019 (Catapult, New York)
Pages: 272 (Hardcover)
Genres: Literary Fiction, Iranian Revolution, Islamic Revolution, Family, Historical Fiction
Link Here

My borrowed copy of To Keep the Sun Alive leaning against a decorative element in my apartment

Hello! The book I am about to talk about, To Keep The Sun Alive, is a joyful and heartbreaking read, and not what I quite expected. After I read the synopsis, I thought this book was going to be mostly depressing, and I would maybe learn about a piece of history that I did not have extensive knowledge of before. But instead I received so much more from reading this novel. I learned more about a piece of history through the eyes of a fictional family connected by blood and situation, divided by beliefs and politics. The stories were told through their flashbacks to Iran before and up to 1979 during the Iranian Revolution, to one character’s outcome in their present-day Paris. Warning: the book does contain some subjects such as violence, oppression and assault.

“Sometimes passion is so quiet, you have to close your eyes to hear it” – Rabeah Ghaffari, To Keep The Sun Alive

At first as I was reading this, I kept thinking about the graphic novel and movie Persepolis (2007 – directed by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi. Based on the graphic novel, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi). It is an illustrated movie and memoir about the author, a head strong girl growing up in Iran during the revolution and her wild adventures. I watched the movie when I was younger on TV, and at that time, I didn’t know anything about the Iranian Revolution. I just thought ‘hey that’s a cartoon, I want to watch that’, but it turned out to be more devastating and violent than I thought. I bring Persepolis up, because it was my first introduction to the Iranian Revolution in pop culture. This book is my second, and that is unfortunate because I wish I knew more about the history and tumultuous movements in Iran. But maybe that can change.

‘How can you (Nasreen) not care about politics?’ he (Madjid) finally said. ‘To ignore injustice is a crime.’…
… ‘I want my own life to be worth living. And if I can do something that moves you, maybe makes you feel less alone in the world, how is that a crime?
” – Rabeah Ghaffari, To Keep The Sun Alive

Is it better to focus on the self and autonomy, or put our desires aside for the sake of society and justice? To Keep The Sun Alive explores this, and other themes such as family, tradition, love in all forms, morality, philosophy, the power of stories, control and so much more. Ghaffari does a wonderful job telling the story of a family, and all their joys and sorrows. The book is full of promise and hope, and a warning about the faults of humankind. The only aspect I would change is to expand more upon the characters, and to expand upon the ending. The book escalates from the second half to the end, and the climax is achieved and stings until the end. The book ends on a devastating note, which actually made me feel momentary heartbreak for the characters in the novel. But I still ended up loving the story.

The boys who had argued were his age, eighteen, and already so convinced of their beliefs they were willing to hate each other. Whatever the cruelty of nature, animals, fish and birds never sought revenge or redress. So why did all human cruelties and injustices have to be accounted for?” – Rabeah Ghaffari, To Keep The Sun Alive

If you’re looking for a book that causes reflection, hope, and expanding your knowledge and philosophical horizons, this is the book. The novel may seem daunting because it surrounds a serious topic such as the Iranian Revolution, but I am very glad I read it, and I hope you give it a chance as well.

Overall, I give this novel a 4 out of 5!


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