Review – ‘Persepolis’ by Marjane Satrapi

Before I began reading Persepolis, I didn’t know what to expect. This was my first comic in book form (or what some people call graphic novels) – I didn’t even know they existed! I think Persepolis was maybe marketed towards people like me, who don’t have a lot of experience with comics, as from the outside it looks like an ordinary prose book. This is a clever technique and it paid off as I was more confident about starting it!

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The storyline grabbed me immediately; it is an autobiographical comic, memoirs about Marjane Satrapi’s childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. I also didn’t know anything about this topic prior to reading Persepolis, but I’m interested in politics and feminism so the first chapter, where a young Marji is forced to wear the veil at school, captured my attention. The book taught me a lot about the Islamic Revolution, from the severe laws that were put in place by the new regime (such as the banning of alcohol) to the consequences that it had for Iranian families like the Satrapis, who are ultimately separated by Marji’s parents’ desire to protect their daughter when she is sent from their home in Iran to Vienna by herself. Although there was lots of information in the book, it never felt like a task; I think that it was easier to read because it was a comic, rather than a prose book. Lots of the story was told through the images, along with Marji’s narration, but there wasn’t as much text as in a prose book which I think made it flow very well, and meant I could read a lot of it in one go without getting tired. I think that overall it being a comic added to the book; the gutter, the spaces between the panels in a comic, allowed parts of the story to be more implicit than they would be in a prose book – you make the links between the images automatically in your head, rather than being told explicitly what happens.

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The pictures in Persepolis were in black and white, and were drawn in quite a simple style, which previously I could have thought of as boring, but which was actually really engaging. It meant that more emphasis was put on the characters and the storyline, as opposed to bright colours and really detailed images. As someone who has never read a comic like this before, I really enjoyed Persepolis and would definitely recommend it both to people like me, who don’t know a lot about comics, and to diehard comic fans! The story ends almost on a cliff hanger as the last panel is Marji about to board her flight to Vienna, so I am definitely going to read the next book – Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return – to see where Marjane Satrapi ended up!

Caitlin Mitchell

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The final page of Persepolis