Persepolis amazed me. For starters, it is the first graphic novel I have ever read which is not from the fantasy genre. I found the use of the cartoons a hugely effective way of portraying the storyline, and was also stunned by how unexpectedly funny it was, given the subject matter. It actually made me laugh out loud.
The book is basically Satrapi's autobiography, and tells her story from childhood, beginning in 1980, during the Islamic Revolution in Iran, all the way through to 1994, when she left Iran to study in Paris. The fact that it is graphic helps to slightly distance the reader from the horrors contained within the story. As a child, Marjane learns about the imprisonment of her grandfather, experiences the imprisonment and execution of her uncle, and has to contend with the Guardians of the Revolution, while out buying Kim Wilde tapes off the Black Market.
The second part of the novel deals with her period of living in Vienna, where her parents sent her to continue her education, aged 14. From the horror and repression of Iran during a war, Satrapi emerges to a society which shuns her as a foreigner: when she fights back against her headmistress telling her that Iranians have no education, she is expelled, and eventually spirals from drugs, a boyfriend who spends all of her money, and who mother hates her for being different, into homelessness,a nd finally back to her family in Iran.
Persepolis is surprisingly humorous and hugely perceptive. It depicts many of the way in which the so called 'emancipated' Western world can be just as repressed and restrictive as the East. For me, it took a period about which I knew nothing, and informed me, while at the same time entertaining me (and annoying my fiance, as I persisted in reading the funniest bits aloud to him.. I know, it's annoying).
The thing that I loved the most about this novel, was the emphasis on books and education. I completely agree with Satrapi when she says 'One must educate oneself'. And on that note, I'm off to rent the film...
Rating: ***** (I'd give it more if I had them!)