Sandsone Press Logo

On The Blog

Overseas' Praise for "The Drum Tower" by Farnoosh Moshiri

We've had a flurry of reviews for Farnoosh's wonderful novel, "The Drum Tower". So you don't have to take just our word that it is a great read . . .

Kirkus Reviews
Family secrets, letters to a ghost father, and the Simorgh, or mythical Bird of Knowledge, inspire this lyrical tale set in Tehran on the eve of the Iranian Revolution. When bitter, resentful matriarch Khanum-Jaan deems her 16-year-old granddaughter, Talkhoon, to be insane, she banishes her to the basement of Drum Tower, the family’s estate. Talkhoon spends her days avoiding the lustful advances of her uncle Assad, grieving her beloved Baba-Ji’s comalike state, and contemplating her mother’s mysterious, long ago disappearance and her father’s preference for political activism over taking care of his daughters. Talkhoon’s only sources of comfort derive from the memories of Baba-Ji’s obsessive writings about the Simorgh and the sweet, hypnotizing songs of her sister’s setar from her rooftop room: “Taara’s melodies and the soothing silence between them rippled in my dark head like the repeating wavelets of the calm sea.” When Talkhoon finally escapes, she comes upon a country in chaos, in the midst of revolution: “When the narrow alley opened onto a wide street, we saw the tanks approaching. Their metal bodies were muddy and they crawled toward us like legless animals, seemingly intent on rolling over us.” In the shadows of the streets of Tehran, Talkhoon and her sister must find a way to forge a new life, free from the talons of ancestral spirits, their family’s calculating lies and menacing nights of a country tearing at the seams. Moshiri (Creative Writing/Univ. of Houston-Downtown; Against Gravity, 2006, etc.) weaves her striking narrative with camphor-scented dreams, wish-granting poems and the twilight ritual of the sapphire feather, creating an intricate, unforgettable tapestry.
September 18, 2014

Publishers Weekly
Iranian-born novelist Moshiri (At the Wall of the Almighty) combines Persian history, sexual politics, and ancient lore in this gripping saga about the dissolution of an aristocratic Iranian family on the eve of the 1979 revolution. Set largely in an ancestral residence called the Drum Tower—“the biggest and oldest house in Tehran”—the story follows Talkhoon, one of two girls at the end of a line of government officials stretching back to the time of Nader Shah in the 18th century. Orphaned and deemed “crazy” following a failed suicide attempt, the16-year-old Talkhoon becomes a captive (and possible future wife) of Assad, a volatile man thought to be her uncle. While Assad, a member of the Revolutionary Guard, sets about converting the Drum Tower into a headquarters—plundering its treasures and evicting Talkhoon’s grandmother, Khanum-Jaan—Talkhoon plots her escape, even as she laments the fact that she will have to leave behind her comatose grandfather, Baba-Ji, a scholar obsessed with a mythical bird called the Simorgh. Talkhoon also ponders the whereabouts of her older sister, Taara, whose letters inform Talkhoon that she is both homeless and pregnant. Though Moshiri fails to develop Talkhoon’s professed and oft-referenced madness fully, she creates a memorable heroine. By shaving her head and dressing in men’s clothes to aid her escape, Talkhoon combats not only the oppression of theocratic government but also the strictures of gender.
August 25, 2014

Foreword Reviews
Farnoosh Moshiri’s latest novel is set during the 1979 Iranian revolution against its monarchy. The Drum Tower isn’t a chronicle of the Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeni’s rise to govern the nation through Islam and its laws; instead, it brings Iran’s revolution to life through the eyes of Talkhoon, a young woman whose family fortunes have disintegrated. Moshiri’s choice of a first-person narrative and her well-honed ability to draw in the reader deliver a story that pulls away the curtain from Iran and the main players of history to reveal the revolution’s consequences for one extended family.

Talkhoon—daughter of a Marxist whose wife mysteriously left the family, granddaughter to a bullying woman who has time for only Taara, Talkhoon’s beautiful sister—longs for change. Her family life is boring and her Uncle Assad’s unusual attentions scare her. When the revolutionaries begin to take over Tehran, Talkhooh’s home and family are set on the road to ruin, and she tries to escape. On this path, she uncovers her true family history, the ghosts of Drum Tower, and the violent past of her ancestors.

From the stagnation of daily life to the family ghosts that wander the house’s halls, Talkhoon struggles to stay sane. She seeks freedom and must learn how to come to terms with abandonment by her mother, father, sister, uncles, and aunts. She sees her extended family as strangers because they all, in one way or another, left her behind.

The mythic Simorgh, a bird akin to the phoenix, from Persian and Azeri folklore, symbolizes freedom to Talkhoon. The eventual discovery of her family’s secrets changes Talkhoon’s way of thinking, in effect burning up her prerevolution life. Her emergence out of that fire, and her struggles to reach a metaphorical rebirth, opens her mind to the possibilities of a life of freedom.

Moshiri’s tale of the early days of Iran’s Shi’ite-controlled Muslim nation is expertly interwoven with Persian folk beliefs and history. She lets her characters speak for her concerning the revolution against the Shah of Iran.

Moshiri’s prose is lyrical and smoothly fluid, and Talkhoon is a memorable heroine. The Drum Tower offers an intimate perspective on a major historical event, as well as finely developed characters, story, pacing, setting, and themes.
Autumn 2014

Farnoosh Moshiri

Farnoosh Moshiri