The first pages pull off an impressive act, juggling the stuff of dreams with the all too real ... passages risk being congenial to flat repetition and hand-me-down phrasing ('in the blink of an eye'), and a few times I fretted about the translation. Yet by and large the fabulist business proves delightful. I especially enjoyed the metamorphosis of Bahar’s sister, who ends up a mermaid. Better still, such materials always reveal their roots in the loam built up over millennia of Persian storytelling ... Azar's...work stands as another of the terrific fictions, a number of them by women, out of this tormented region and moment. It affirms again the adaptability, the veracity, the sheer power of the novel form.
Though steeped in grim political realities, the novel reads like a tall tale ... Azar strikes a remarkable balance between the fantastical and historical fact. What unites these two fronts is an exactness, by way of enumeration and time, which lends credibility to both aspects of the narrative. Events are chronicled with exaggerated precision ... Elsewhere, steps are enumerated, as if navigating a treasure map. What is inexact, however, is the toll of violence ... We can only estimate the number of lives lost in the Islamic Revolution and its violent aftermath.
... a work of magical realism with plenty to unpack ... The family’s struggles intertwine with magical happenings in the lives of others, and the spirit world populates as much of the novel as do the living. Nods to poetry and literature make the parables of The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree engaging, tantalizing, and memorable.
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is a dark, fantastical tale of a country and people crushed by brutal, reactionary forces. Azar's invention often impresses, with beautifully conceived and realized episodes and transformations, but it also makes for a somewhat loose story, a novel in which too often characters simply wander off (or are torn away), with too little follow-through of what they experience during this time, and too little overall connection. In part, Bahar is a problematic narrator: not strong enough a presence or character on her own, and also not quite able to tell us enough about all the others, at least for certain stretches. It makes for an uneven, somewhat piecemeal narrative -- coming together as a whole, but not entirely neatly.
Azar’s florid style emulates the rich storytelling tradition of bygone Persia, redolent with Zoroastrian lore and mired in magical vegetation...clearly meant as a bulwark against the oppression of the present day regime. But the promise of the voice is weighed down by clunky writing, rife with repeated and awkward phrasings. Azar’s dense family saga is animated by characters who face terror heroically, but it’s undercut by the unpolished prose.