Love, poetry and romance collide in Rafic Daud’s novel titled Persian Pearl Tulip.
Jan Demir is a successful businessman in Lisbon, Portugal, with a taste for the finer things in life that includes beautiful women. While on a business trip to Tehran, Iran, he meets Golnaz Izadi. Naz, a Persian businesswoman from London who also is in Tehran for work, is attracted to Jan, but wary of his egotism. He, however, is smitten with Naz, even though she challenges his narrow-mindedness, especially when it comes to the Persian poet, Hafez–a significant figure in Iranian culture.
Despite their differing ideologies, they begin a chaste courtship that has Jan meeting Naz’s parents while they are still in Tehran. They continue their courtship after returning to their separate cities via phone calls and e-mails. They also visit each other and meet briefly in Paris. But as Naz starts doubting a forever with Jan, he finds himself unwilling to let her go.
Daud’s novel is a fine tribute to Hafez. The story includes some of the poet’s ghazals and statements many Iranians interpret as prophetic. The cover, in fact, is an impressive illustration of Hafez’s tomb in Shiraz, Iran, and is one of the places Jan and Naz visit.
While Hafez gets his due, however, Daud’s novel as a whole suffers from several flaws. The couples’ rendezvous’ feel like two people meeting for the first time; not a man and woman falling in love. Additionally, both characters are not terribly sympathetic. In one scene, Jan surprises Naz with a professional massage at her hotel, only to be brusquely informed she wasn’t interested. Jan’s romantic gestures continue, with similar responses from Naz, making him appear desperate and her rude.
Characters in romantic stories should have difficulties. But they should also be likable, and have mutual chemistry and admiration, none of which Jan and Naz possess. As a result, readers expecting a feel-good love story will have trouble finding it in Daud’s novel.