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the Complete Review
the complete review - comic book


Marjane Satrapi

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Embroideries

Title: Embroideries
Author: Marjane Satrapi
Genre: comic book
Written: 2003 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 144 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Embroideries - US
Embroideries - UK
Embroideries - Canada
Broderies - France
Sticheleien - Deutschland
  • French title: Broderies
  • Translated by Anjali Singh

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Our Assessment:

B : nicely drawn, some decent stories, but too simple and simplistic

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Globe & Mail . 23/4/2005 Jessa Crispin
The Guardian . 25/6/2005 Maureen Freely
New Statesman . 13/6/2005 Kate Saunders
The NY Times Book Rev. . 12/6/2005 Sophie Harrison
The Observer . 26/6/2005 Samantha Ellis
Sunday Telegraph . 19/6/2005 Helen Brown
Time . 15/4/2005 Andrew D. Arnold
The Times . 7/5/2005 Peter Millar
The Village Voice . 22/3/2005 Aimee Kelley
The Washington Post . 3/7/2005 Joey Anuff

  From the Reviews:
  • "As charming as Embroideries is, it's possible that the book would have been better off in prose format rather than as a graphic tale. The black and white, undetailed artwork of the Persepolis books looks advanced when compared to Embroideries. (...) This looks rushed, more like a rough draft than a finished product. (...) Embroideries is a wonderful, multi-layered book disguising itself as a sort of Middle East chicklit memoir." - Jessa Crispin, The Globe & Mail

  • "Though Embroideries is not a continuation of the Persepolis story, it sits at the heart of the same world -- a brutally policed society where an extraordinarily rich and inventive culture still prevails, if only behind closed doors, where women are wildly subversive, funny, free-thinking and sexy, at least when the men are having naps." - Maureen Freely, The Guardian

  • "These are authentic bitches and gossips who argue and backbite. Satrapi turns her readers into invisible members of the group, and invites us to enjoy the world of her childhood by putting universal truths about the eternal battle of the sexes into Iranian clothes." - Kate Saunders, New Statesman

  • "Embroideries is a more modest book than its predecessors, but it is just as appealing. (...) What Embroideries does brilliantly is expose the atmosphere of ineffectual confidentiality that hangs around such gatherings." - Sophie Harrison, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Embroideries is a paean to taking pleasure seriously and is, in the light of the pinched strictures of the fundamentalists, a subversive as well as satisfying, book." - Samantha Ellis, The Observer

  • "Embroideries is a more magaziney read -- an Iranian Sex and the City, if you like" - Helen Brown, Sunday Telegraph

  • "Embroideries continues her fascinating, entertaining examination of women's lives using the simple, compelling techniques that have become her style. (...) Embroideries is as funny, opinionated, controversial and surprising as any good comic or conversation should be." - Andrew D. Arnold, Time

  • "Satrapi gives a vivid, astutely drawn account of a full and frank after-dinner conversation at her grandmotherís house between a group of Iranian women (.....) This is a book to provoke and entertain. But donít show it to a mullah: it will only make him mad." - Peter Millar, The Times

  • "Humorous and bawdy, Embroideries is an amusing portrayal of independent women taking life in stride" - Aimee Kelley, The Village Voice

  • "But it's an entirely different shock value that makes reading Satrapi such a joy -- the shock of discovering a new voice bringing new stories to the table, playing by new rules, and pulling it off like an old master." - Joey Anuff, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Embroideries is another of Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical books, heavy on the comic book-type illustrations, fairly light on the text. Embroideries doesn't continue her life-story, but rather offers examples of many others'. The setting is a Tehran Kaffeeklatsch (well, a tea-klatsch), a gathering of women presided over by Marjane's grandmother. Her motto here is: "To speak behind others' backs is the ventilator of the heart", and there's a good deal of ventilating going on (along with quite a bit of confession).
       The main topic of conversation is sex, and in experiences they've had or heard about the women present a picture of sex in contemporary Iran. The stories that are related are both disturbing and funny, a variety of mishaps of varying degrees of tragedy and comedy (usually a mix of the two). Common to many of them is the obsession with a woman being a virgin when she gets married. ('Embroidery' turns out also to be a euphemism for a modern solution to helping women reclaim that virginal state.)
       The stories are nicely related: Satrapi's drawings are charming and well-organised, and the dialogue conversation-like and convincing. But, as tends to be the case in such exchanges of stories tossed back and forth across a table or room at this sort of gathering, they are less real stories than anecdotes. Satrapi makes her points, but there's little beyond that -- and certainly no discussion of the issues involved. The drawings help suggest a little more about the characters, but other than the grandparents these are examples, not individuals. (In the way most of them are presented they remain memorable -- if at all -- for their particular sexual mishap (the woman with the razor blade ..., etc.), Satrapi inadvertently making sex the defining (and, indeed, sole) element of their lives. Surely that can't be the message she is trying to convey ?)
       The ridiculousness of the prevalent sexual mores is self-evident, but Satrapi also does little to explore either the reasons for these or the implications of other possible attitudes. One aunt, for example, takes the most radical position:

Why don't we behave as Westerners do !? For them, since the problem of sex is resolved, they can move on to other things ! This is the reason they progress !!!
       There's no attempt whatsoever to question or challenge (or embrace) this opinion; the reactions are the claim that in the West aristocrats also value virginity highly (another dubious assertion that goes unchallenged) and then it's on with the next anecdote.
       Satrapi offers good, sly fun: the anecdotes are well-presented, the drawings winning. The reader feels like a fly on the wall (or a voyeur) at this gathering in this household, watching and listening to these women gab and gossip away. But, while it's not entirely superficial fun, there is ultimately relatively little depth here, neither in the exploration of these characters nor in any true exploration of the subject matter.
       Embroideries is appealing enough: it's an enjoyable, entertaining read. But it's ultimately also pretty thin stuff -- and feels closer in quality and presentation to a TV sit-com than a decent book. (Don't get us wrong: there are (or have been) some damn fine TV sit-coms out there, and like them Embroideries strikes a chord and makes an impression. But the impression is a fairly fleeting and shallow one, and it's best enjoyed in the moment and has little resonance.)

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Embroideries: Reviews: Marjane Satrapi: Other books by Marjane Satrapi under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Iranian comic-book author Marjane Satrapi was born in 1969. She now lives in France.

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© 2005-2021 the complete review

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