Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi (Book and Film)

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Persepolis is often quoted as being one of the best graphic novels in existence, so I have been wanting to read it for a while. It is an autobiography about what life was like for the author growing up in Iran and her experiences of being sent away to school in Austria.

I’d describe Persepolis as being an important book, rather than an enjoyable one. A lot of it felt like reading a very good history book, rather than a personal experience of life in Iran. I loved the details of her personal life and did find some sections amusing, but overall the mood of the book was quite oppressive. It was very informative and I admit that there was a lot I didn’t know before reading it, but I would have preferred to learn more about her life than the politics of the country.

It was also quite slow to read. There was a lot of detail in each picture, so the pace was much slower than the average graphic novel. The illustrations were quite simple, but they portrayed all that was needed to be put across effectively.

Whilst I was reading the book I saw that the film was being shown on television, so decided to record it and watch it once I’d finished. It was an interesting comparison as I think it is the closest a film has ever come to following a book – it was just like seeing the pictures on each page moving in front of you, which meant that this is another rare example of a film being slightly better than the book.

I think that this is a book everyone should read at some point and it will probably become a classic of our age.


Did you enjoy Persepolis?

What is your favourite graphic novel?

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  1. Amanda says:

    I liked the first half of this better than the second (I read them separately), and neither was as good as the other two GNs of hers I’ve read, but I did enjoy it. My brother really likes the movie, so I’m getting him this book for Christmas.

    1. Jackie says:

      Amanda, It is good to know that her other two graphic novels are better – I’ll try to get round to them at some point.

  2. nomadreader says:

    I’m reading Persepolis right now, and I’m really enjoying it. There is a lot of history, but I think part of her point is that in a country like that at the time she grew up especially, the details of your life and the politics of the country are inextricably linked. I’m only about 100 pages into it, but there have been several mentions of “it’s a way of life for Persians,” or “that’s a very Persian mindset.” I definitely agree it’s part-cultural memoir and part personal memoir, but I can’t wait to finish it. I’m also looking forward to seeing the movie when I finish!

    1. Jackie says:

      nomadreader, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time! I know exactly what you mean about the country’s history being linked to their lives, and I realise that a certain amount of history is needed in a book like this, but I do think it went into a bit too much detail in some places. I’m pleased to hear that you are enjoying it so far – I hope that you continue to do so.

  3. Jenny says:

    I’m interested in what you say about its being more like a good history book, than a memoir. In some ways I agree with you – though when I read it, I remember thinking that Satrapi made it very vivid how the personal and political blended into each other in her life in Iran. Actually, during her time abroad, when she wasn’t speaking as much to the political influences on her life, I enjoyed it less than when she was in Iran.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, It is interesting that you preferred the Iranian section – I was the opposite and prefered the Austrian section. I’m not sure why – perhaps I’m not a fan of politics and war?

  4. Verity says:

    I saw the film of this and was absolutely blown away – I’d never read (and still havem’t read) a graphic novel and had never seen anything like it – I think that it translated really well to the big screen. And the subject matter was hugely interesting.

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, I hadn’t read any graphic novels this time last year, but it really something you should try – there are some great ones out there. I’m pleased to hear that you enjoyed the film – perhaps you should now try reading the book?

  5. Steph says:

    I haven’t read the book, but your review reminded me that a film version existed, so I’ve added it to our Netflix queue! Normally I would feel like I need to read the book first, but since you felt the movie was better than the original material, I will make an exception in this case!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, It is definately OK to make an exception in this case. Marjane Satrapi had a big involvement making this film and it is so close to the book that I don’t think you are missing anything by not reading the book first. I hope that you enjoy it.

  6. Sandy says:

    I’ve got a nice, chunky list of graphic novels accumulated, waiting for a Graphic Novel Challenge. I know one will float around here in the next month or so. This one is on the list. Surprisingly, I’ve not seen the movie, despite its two billion accolades. May have to do the book/movie feature like you did!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I’m sure that there will be a grpahic novel challenge launched soon. I have a few more ready to read, but I’m not sure I’ll sign up to the challenge, as last year it required a minimum of 8 and I doubt I’ll read that many, but I look forward to hearing your thoughts on them.

  7. Lezlie says:

    “an important book, rather than an enjoyable one”

    I haven’t read this, but that is a *perfect* description of this kind of book. It’s the same kind of description I would apply to The Road by Cormac McCarthy and others in the same vein.


    1. Jackie says:

      Lezlie, The Road is another book that I am hoping to read soon. I will be interested to see how it compares to this one, but I think they will be quite different. Persepolis is important because it is factual, but I have a feeling that The Road is just dark fiction which can never be described as enjoyable, but will hopefully teach us something about society. Hopefully it will make it to the top of my pile soon.

  8. I plan on reading this book for the Women Unbound Challenge. I know exactly what you mean about a book being important rather than enjoyable. I felt that way about 1984, which got some interesting responses when I posted the review. I’m looking forward to reading the novel then watching the movie as you did. Thanks for the review.

    1. Jackie says:

      A Bookshelf Monstrosity, I read 1984 recently and haven’t posted my review yet – I’ll be interested to see how it compares to yours – I’m off to have a look!

  9. Shona says:

    I finished this book very recently and was quite surprised by how little I knew about nation’s recent past. It was a good read but there were times when I fell asleep reading the book :) (I am partly to be blamed for that , I used to read it late in the night)

    I want to read the part 2 for sure.

    1. Jackie says:

      Shona, The book I read contained both parts 1 and 2. I hope you manage to read the section section soon, as I think it is better.

  10. Kathleen says:

    I’ve not read a graphic novel as of yet. I know I feel as though I have been living on another planet. I’ve heard quite a bit about Persepolis though and having read a fair amount about this period in Iran’s history, I think I would enjoy it. I got a recommendation to read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel for my first graphic novel so I have that one on order and will see how I like it!

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, Fun Home was my first graphic novel and I loved it. It does have graphic sex in it, but if you are OK with that then I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I did. I hope you enjoy your first graphic novel experience.

  11. Simon S says:

    I looooooooooooooved the film, I havent had a try of the book yet though. I will at some point though. I like the idea of this being a classic of our times very much.

    Oh and yesterday… my family, well uncle and co, live between Kendal and its mint cake and Grasmere and its amazing gingerbread. I think thats near, am sure thats what they said but I know lots of places have had floods.

    1. Jackie says:

      Simon, It is great to hear that you enjoyed the film of this book. They are so similar that I’m sure you’d love the book too.

      I agree that Grasmere has amazing gingerbread! It is quite close to Cockermouth, but I think there was a lot of flooding all along that section of the Lakes, so they probably helped out closer to home. Hope there’re all doing OK.

  12. mee says:

    Interesting. I felt completely the opposite as in I felt like I was reading a personal journey of Marjane and it just happens to be in Iran. In fact, another friend of mine pointed out that he would like the book to be more about the history/politic of the country, rather than concentrating on personal details.

    Either way, Persepolis is definitely one of my top graphic novels. It’s truly one of a kind. Satrapi is absolutely talented. I read Embroideries and enjoyed it as much.

    1. Jackie says:

      mee, It is interesting that we had such different reactions to it, but both enjoyed it. I agree that Satrapi is very talented and look forward to reading more of her graphic novels.

  13. softdrink says:

    Like Amanda, I preferred the first part over the second. What surprised me so much about the book was how much emotion was conveyed by the black and white drawings.

    1. Jackie says:

      softdrink, It is amazing how much emotion can be contained in one small drawing – I found the little hand in the rubble particularly emotional. I did prefer the colour sections of the film though. I wonder how good the book would be if the whole thing was in colour?

  14. Melody says:

    I’m glad to hear you enjoyed reading this! I’ve this book and after hearing so many raves about it I need to move it up my TBR pile!

    1. Jackie says:

      Melody, I look forward to seeing what you think of it. I’m sure that you will love it.

  15. Ashley says:

    Not only did I too enjoy The Complete Persepolis, but I also thought it was an important book. It really opened my eyes. I was originally reading it for an English course but I found that I was actually compelled to keep reading on my own!

    1. Jackie says:

      Ashley, It is great that you read these things for an English course – and even better that you decided to continue when you didn’t have to. It really is an important book.

  16. Karen says:

    I started this one ages ago and then stalled for some reason – I wasn’t feeling very engaged with the story – but maybe it was just the wrong book at the wrong time?? I will get back to it one day.

    1. Jackie says:

      Karen, I did find that there was too much history in the beginning section, so it was difficult to bond with the characters. It might be worth trying again at some point, as I understand your problem – it does get better.

      The other option would be to try watching the film instead – in many ways that will be the easy/better option.

  17. Rebecca Reid says:

    Very interesting comments. I’m completely opposite to you! What I didn’t like was the stuff about her life. I found the narrator to be conceited I think (it’s been a while since I read it) but I loved the political info. I felt I learned something.

    I just don’t like memoirs and this was far too much about a person I didn’t care about.

    That said, I do want to see how they adapted it for a movie! I keep forgetting to watch it on Netflix!

    1. Jackie says:

      Rebecca, I think the difference is that I like emotion in the books I read. If I wanted to know historical details I’d read a text book. I felt this book was more informative than emotional and so although I enjoyed it, it wasn’t the best book I’d read. I hope that you manage to watch it on Netflix – I’m sure you’ll love it.

  18. i just finished reading my first graphic novel ever–fun home–and really enjoyed it! maybe this one will be next!

    1. Jackie says:

      nat, Fun Home was my first graphic novel too. I loved it and I hope that you now enjoy many more graphic novels too.

  19. Rebecca says:

    Thank you for the honest and interesting review. I have this one on my to-read list and it is nice to know what to expect when I open the cover.


  1. Persepolis: The Story of A Childhood – Book Review – caribousmom
  2. Persepolis I « Ardent Reader
  3. Marjane Satrapi – Persepolis / Persepolis 2 « Fyrefly's Book Blog

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