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Set against the backdrop of Iran's rich, turbulent history, this exquisite debut novel is a powerful story of food, family, and a bittersweet homecoming. When we first meet Noor, she is living in San Francisco, missing her beloved father, Zod, in Iran. Now, dragging her stubborn teenage daughter, Lily, with her, she returns to Tehran and to Café Leila, the restaurant her f Set against the backdrop of Iran's rich, turbulent history, this exquisite debut novel is a powerful story of food, family, and a bittersweet homecoming. When we first meet Noor, she is living in San Francisco, missing her beloved father, Zod, in Iran. Now, dragging her stubborn teenage daughter, Lily, with her, she returns to Tehran and to Café Leila, the restaurant her family has been running for three generations. Iran may have changed, but Café Leila, still run by Zod, has stayed blessedly the same - it is a refuge of laughter and solace for its makeshift family of staff and regulars. As Noor revisits her Persian childhood, she must rethink who she is: a mother, a daughter, a woman estranged from her marriage and from her life in California. And together, she and Lily get swept up in the beauty and brutality of Tehran.


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Set against the backdrop of Iran's rich, turbulent history, this exquisite debut novel is a powerful story of food, family, and a bittersweet homecoming. When we first meet Noor, she is living in San Francisco, missing her beloved father, Zod, in Iran. Now, dragging her stubborn teenage daughter, Lily, with her, she returns to Tehran and to Café Leila, the restaurant her f Set against the backdrop of Iran's rich, turbulent history, this exquisite debut novel is a powerful story of food, family, and a bittersweet homecoming. When we first meet Noor, she is living in San Francisco, missing her beloved father, Zod, in Iran. Now, dragging her stubborn teenage daughter, Lily, with her, she returns to Tehran and to Café Leila, the restaurant her family has been running for three generations. Iran may have changed, but Café Leila, still run by Zod, has stayed blessedly the same - it is a refuge of laughter and solace for its makeshift family of staff and regulars. As Noor revisits her Persian childhood, she must rethink who she is: a mother, a daughter, a woman estranged from her marriage and from her life in California. And together, she and Lily get swept up in the beauty and brutality of Tehran.

30 review for The Last Days of Café Leila

  1. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)

    Noor’s life has hit a speedbump. She works in a hospital as a nurse while raising her teenage daughter, Lily. Years of marriage are in question after becoming aware of her husband's infidelities. Noor decides to take some time to evaluate her life by taking her daughter to Tehran to visit her father. She has not seen her dad or Iran since she left for California at eighteen. Noor’s dad runs “Cafe Leila” which has been the family business for years. It continues to serve as a social gathering pl Noor’s life has hit a speedbump. She works in a hospital as a nurse while raising her teenage daughter, Lily. Years of marriage are in question after becoming aware of her husband's infidelities. Noor decides to take some time to evaluate her life by taking her daughter to Tehran to visit her father. She has not seen her dad or Iran since she left for California at eighteen. Noor’s dad runs “Cafe Leila” which has been the family business for years. It continues to serve as a social gathering place for the neighborhood. Reunited with her father, Noor finds that that his health is failing. She begins to connect with him and develops roots to her country. She finds Iran to be a much different place from her childhood memories. This is the story of three generations tied to Iran through changing times. It is a wonderful story about love, loss, sacrifice, and the human spirit. I look forward to Donia Bijan’s next novel. giveaway on my blog until 6/6 https://www.facebook.com/suzyapproved...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    3.5 Zod has kept the cafe going, even throughout the many tumultuous years in Tehran, feeding anyone who needed or wanted to eat,. Even after his wife was killed in a horrible way, and due to these dangerous times especially for woman, he sends his daughter and son to America. Heartbroken he kept going, looking forward to letters sent by his daughter. Now though, a medical emergency has reared it's ugly head and his daughter Noor, dealing with a heartbreak of her own will return bringing with he 3.5 Zod has kept the cafe going, even throughout the many tumultuous years in Tehran, feeding anyone who needed or wanted to eat,. Even after his wife was killed in a horrible way, and due to these dangerous times especially for woman, he sends his daughter and son to America. Heartbroken he kept going, looking forward to letters sent by his daughter. Now though, a medical emergency has reared it's ugly head and his daughter Noor, dealing with a heartbreak of her own will return bringing with her a reluctant teenage daughter. I initially didn't connect with this story, almost put it aside, so glad by books end that I did not. Inside is a story filed with a great deal of love, of a family that has weathered uncertain times but not easily and not without sorrow. Some wonderful characters here as well. We also learn some about this country and how woman are treated, Watch as a teenage girl raised in America tries to come to terms with the loss of freedom she is used to having. This book has so much heart, sometimes it seemed as if things were going to turn out to good to be true, but the author manages to deftly turn the tide. The decision Noor makes at the end is the same decision I can see myself making in the same circumstances. An emotional read but a worthy one. ARC from Netgalley.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    This is an engrossing story with emotional writing that explores the depths of family ties and the place we call home. Told from multiple perspectives and going back and forth in time from pre to post Islamic Iran, the author creates compassionate characters and writes sumptuous descriptions of food, I vacillated between heartache and hunger pain. Until about a decade ago, I’d not known an Iranian and I now consider myself lucky to have a few lovely Iranian women as close friends. Theirs is one o This is an engrossing story with emotional writing that explores the depths of family ties and the place we call home. Told from multiple perspectives and going back and forth in time from pre to post Islamic Iran, the author creates compassionate characters and writes sumptuous descriptions of food, I vacillated between heartache and hunger pain. Until about a decade ago, I’d not known an Iranian and I now consider myself lucky to have a few lovely Iranian women as close friends. Theirs is one of the world’s oldest civilizations and has influenced cultures from Greece to Russia and East Asia, yet what most of us know of Iran are animosity and a nuclear deal. So I invite you to read this book, learn a little about these wonderful people, how they survive in a constant state of fear and loss and how in the end, it’s about family and home and what those give us and mean to us. Simply beautiful storytelling, insightful and steeped in rich detail, if you love to learn about other cultures then this story will not disappoint.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Burnett

    4.5 stars WOW is the best word I can use to describe The Last Days of Café Leila. I absolutely loved the book all the way up until the end. The ending made me very sad and while I am not sure how it could have ended differently, I wish it had. I cannot say anymore without spoiling it so I will leave it at that. The rest of the book is absolutely perfect. My emotions ran the full gamut while reading this book: intense joy, intense sadness, horror, embarrassment, disbelief, and fascination. When I b 4.5 stars WOW is the best word I can use to describe The Last Days of Café Leila. I absolutely loved the book all the way up until the end. The ending made me very sad and while I am not sure how it could have ended differently, I wish it had. I cannot say anymore without spoiling it so I will leave it at that. The rest of the book is absolutely perfect. My emotions ran the full gamut while reading this book: intense joy, intense sadness, horror, embarrassment, disbelief, and fascination. When I began reading, I quickly realized how little I knew about Iran, both present day and the 20th century events that led up to present day. My brief knowledge covered the Iran hostage crisis, the Iran-Iraq conflicts, and the Iran revolution in 1979. While I knew Iran was ruled by a conservative Islamic government, I had no idea how conservative and restrictive the government actually is. Bijan effectively conveys what life is like for those still living there (many have sent their children abroad and often emigrated themselves) and the great loss of freedom and culture that is experienced for those remaining. I truly cannot imagine living under those conditions especially as a woman but even as a man with music, dancing, and access to other cultures banned by the Islamic Republic. Moreover, Bijan portrays the sadness felt by those who lived in Iran prior to the revolution and truly mourn how much was lost when the Islamic Republic came into power. Living in the United States, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that many do not live with the freedoms we take for granted. I felt this sentiment time and time again while I was reading this book. Donia Bijan’s writing is magical and beautifully lyrical. I was transported to Tehran and particularly Café Leila, frequently feeling like I could visualize the café and its environs along with the Persian meals and foliage. I loved learning about Persian food and customs and the manner in which residents did their best to adhere to and keep alive traditions that have been banned for so many years. Bijan’s characters are lovingly crafted. Zod is one of the greatest characters I have encountered in fiction in a long while. He will stay with me for quite a long time and hopefully I absorbed some of his parenting style. I am so thankful that I read this book and wish it could be required reading for everyone at this time in the United States when tolerance of others and their cultures is sometimes sadly lacking. Knowledge leads to understanding and empathy (which is exactly why these conservative regimes ban so many things). I cannot wait to read Donia Bijan’s next novel and am so glad I read this one. Make sure you have tissues nearby – certain sections are nothing short of heartbreaking. Thanks to Algonquin and NetGalley for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    3.5 stars I was originally drawn to this book by its cover and found inside a beautiful story of family, love, food, and Iranian culture (which I was, for the most part, unfamiliar with).

  6. 5 out of 5

    LeAnne: GeezerMom

    On Heritage Day at school, Lily's mom was careful to send her in with cinnamon-laced churros to represent her paternal ancestry. When classmates asked "so what else are you?" Lily, as coached by her mom, lied and replied "Italian." Don't tell anyone you are Iranian! Born and reared in Tehran but shipped to San Fransisco at age 18 by her father, Noor has turned her back on her home country. She deeply loves her father, the sweet restauranteur Zod, but has not been back in 30 years - at his insista On Heritage Day at school, Lily's mom was careful to send her in with cinnamon-laced churros to represent her paternal ancestry. When classmates asked "so what else are you?" Lily, as coached by her mom, lied and replied "Italian." Don't tell anyone you are Iranian! Born and reared in Tehran but shipped to San Fransisco at age 18 by her father, Noor has turned her back on her home country. She deeply loves her father, the sweet restauranteur Zod, but has not been back in 30 years - at his insistance. As the story opens in California, Noor is the centerpiece of a generational tale that gradually introduces four generations of loving, generous people. I was a bit worried that this would be fairly standard chick lit trope - heartbroken-woman-with-irascible-teenager-finally-develops-a-backbone-and-finds-happiness. The first chapters tasted a bit like your basic Lifetime movie but with pomegranate soup, kabobs, and lots of recipes on the sideboard. When circumstances persuade Noor to do something unexpected with her life, she books plane tickets to take Lily to Tehran to finally meet her grandfather. When the story arrives in Iran, teenaged Lily is still smart-mouthed and sullen. Noor is still timid...but, oh! We get to meet Zod! Zod's parents were Russian refugees - his mother an incredible cook - who escaped the revolution by emigrating to Iran. Tehran in those days had streets full of music and culture, food and dancing. Travel to and from the country was unfettered, and Zod was sent abroad to study in Paris. When he returned for a family funeral and for his own wedding to his heart's delight, the story truly sang. Let me spare you a play-by-play of what went on during Tehran's revolution, but suffice it to say that the uber religious seized power. Women who had been sunbathing in bikinis just months prior were now required to be covered head to toe while in public. No more music in the streets. No more rights for women. It seems insane to think that a gentle and devoted father would ship his children across the world and demand that they never return. Yet when we read of the terrors to women, we begin to understand Zod in a way his daughter cannot. She has not seen what we readers have. The tail end of the story has an aftertaste of that Lifetime movie aforementioned, but not in a bad way. Recipes and food preparation are presented throughout the book for us to sample. Teenaged Lily is dangerously and naiively brazen in a country that kills for far less. And Noor still procrastinates upon making decisions and declarations. But Zod is there, preparing sweet dough in our dreams and calling the name of his wife every night in his own sleep. A nice 3.5

  7. 5 out of 5

    Fred Shaw

    The Last Days of Cafe Leila by Donia Bijan, is a powerful and emotional novel of love, loss and homecoming in Iran. Cafe Leila is a family owned business in Tehran that has been there for 3 generations, making Iranian dishes with the freshest ingredients. The author’s detailed description of the cuisine was mouth watering. Zod, the chef at Cafe Leila and the father of Noor and Marquad, lost his wife Peri to Islamic thugs, because as a women she spoke out. She was raped and stoned repeatedly in th The Last Days of Cafe Leila by Donia Bijan, is a powerful and emotional novel of love, loss and homecoming in Iran. Cafe Leila is a family owned business in Tehran that has been there for 3 generations, making Iranian dishes with the freshest ingredients. The author’s detailed description of the cuisine was mouth watering. Zod, the chef at Cafe Leila and the father of Noor and Marquad, lost his wife Peri to Islamic thugs, because as a women she spoke out. She was raped and stoned repeatedly in the street, taken to prison and eventually hanged. Zod didn’t see her for months and did not know what happened to her. To save his teenaged children, he sent them to America to live with his brother where they went to school and grew into adults, married and had their own children. Years later, Noor and daughter Lily, arrive in Iran to visit Noor’s aging father and Lily’s grandfather. Lily, a stubborn teenage girl sees another side of life and the world where the “rules are not fair”. Life for women in Iran is frustrating and sometimes horrible, but Lily sees through it all to the beauty of her family and new friends. The author’s characters are believable and I adored them; I felt the heat from the intense sun of Iran and I could taste the cuisine. Even though there we a few editing mishaps, for a debut novel I found it memorable and may read it again just to spend more time with the characters.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Doreen

    I enjoy books which illuminate other cultures so I really looked forward to reading this book. Though it does indeed provide details about Iranian culture, it does so in a narrative that I can only describe as awkward and unsophisticated. Noor, recently divorced, returns to Iran after a 30-year absence to visit her aging father Zod. Noor is accompanied by her recalcitrant teenaged daughter Lily. In Tehran, Zod continues to run a restaurant, Café Leila, which is a neighbourhood gathering place st I enjoy books which illuminate other cultures so I really looked forward to reading this book. Though it does indeed provide details about Iranian culture, it does so in a narrative that I can only describe as awkward and unsophisticated. Noor, recently divorced, returns to Iran after a 30-year absence to visit her aging father Zod. Noor is accompanied by her recalcitrant teenaged daughter Lily. In Tehran, Zod continues to run a restaurant, Café Leila, which is a neighbourhood gathering place started years earlier by his parents. Noor is returning home but Lily has difficulty adjusting to life in Iran. There are numerous flashbacks. The reader learns about the emigration of Zod’s parents from Russia; Iran’s studies in Paris and his marriage to Pari; Pari’s death; Noor’s life in California and her marriage and divorce. There are even flashbacks describing the lives of the employees at the café. The story is narrated from multiple perspectives: Zod, Pari, Noor, Lily, Lily’s father, Noor’s brother, Zod’s estranged brother, Zod’s sister-in-law, the café’s errand boy, etc. The author obviously wanted to create well-rounded characters, but the effect is a lack of focus. The impression is that the author didn’t know whom to focus on so she put a spotlight on everyone. For example, it is not necessary to go on and on about Karim’s becoming besotted with Lily. We are told that he can’t stop staring at her and that he can’t concentrate at school and that he keeps repeating her name to himself and that he gets her a kitten and that he will do anything for her and . . . Karim is a minor character and there seems little purpose to being repeatedly told that he is in love with Lily. For all the references to him, Karim remains a flat character. Zod is a major character but he is not believable. He is just too good to be true. He cares about everyone, is wise, is unfailingly optimistic, and is loved by everyone. He is given the homage “never seen but for martyrs and mullahs”?! His behaviour, however, is inconsistent. He tells his daughter to visit him and to bring Lily with her: “Pack a bag for you and Lily and come visit your old father” but then he scolds her: “You brought Lily into danger and discomfort . . .” He even asks, “What lesson did Noor aim to teach by bringing her here?” There is much telling and little showing in the book. Noor is supposed to be a dynamic character who grows, but we are only told that she grows. We are given a thorough description of her flaws: “Blinded by her troubles, unable to raise her head, to exert herself, clinging to the exaggerated memories of her youth. When had this girl, who defied them in childhood, who never got her way fast enough, grown timid and undemanding, so frustratingly passive in the face of humiliation? Why did she think herself so undeserving of love, merely enduring life like a pebble in her shoe and side stepping people’s shortcomings, talking as though she had caused Nelson’s infidelity – a watchfulness grown inward, doubtful and wary of her own child even.” Her parenting is thoroughly criticized: “For too long Noor had auditioned for motherhood, fun mom one day to authoritarian the next, careening from affectionate to cool, indulgent to critical, hands-off to hovering, and if Nelson was the arbiter, the easygoing dad, there to keep the peace and make their meals festive, it only heightened the pitch of her pendulum. It was exhausting being Noor, but she meant well. She always had meant well.” Then we are told that Noor’s “reaching out to Nelson, recognizing she couldn’t sway Lily without him, was a big step for her” and “Noor eventually came to learn that we see what we want to see.” We don’t see her learning these lessons; we are told she has these insights. Noor’s only observation about her own behaviour is that she has taught her daughter to be afraid: “’all I’ve ever done is show you how to be afraid.’” Of course Lily’s behaviour with Karim does not seem like that of someone who is afraid. Her father, in fact, loves her because “she could not be depended upon to comply with form. Her bold, brutal honesty was what he admired.” And Noor’s decision at the end suggests she is still auditioning for motherhood so there is little growth in her character. One of the major techniques of showing is dialogue. This novel has little dialogue and certainly no extended conversations that would reveal character. The dialogue that is included seems to serve little purpose. For instance, a discussion about the ingredients in piroshkies is hardly revealing; Noor asks her father, “’Didn’t you used to put cream in the spinach filling?’” and Zod answers, “’Mm. And sometimes hard-boiled eggs.’” There are intrusive statements and comments throughout. In case the reader wouldn’t realize it, he/she is told “Neither Lily nor Karim could be expected to understand a world where such things were possible, that an innocent girl would be burned alive for refusing a ludicrous marriage proposal.” The narrator even addresses the reader: “Maybe if you’ve lived as long as he had, you knew all too well that looking for blame was futile, that you need not go back and ask for explanations.” And the tone can be downright preachy: “Because if our parents didn’t exalt us, we spend our adult lives blaming them – for not doing this, and not doing that, not being ‘supportive,’ not making an appearance at our first recital, being overprotective or aloof, damaging our self-esteem. Yet at our best or worst, who sees everything? Who knows us best? Who waits and waits to see what we yet may be? Then one day they’re gone and it’s just you, and there’s nothing left to squeeze, no one to blame for the dismay over the course your life has taken.” As I mentioned at the beginning, I love books that highlight other cultures. The problem with this book is that it sounds like an essay at times: “The cuisine of Northern Iran, overlooked and underrated, is unlike most Persian food in that it’s as unfussy and lighthearted as the people from that region.” And “It’s customary in Iran for a family member to wash the body of the deceased; there are no undertakers and no viewings, burial is swift.” We are told that Noor’s sister-in-law “was incapable of tarof (a custom of self-deference exclusive to Iranians)” and then the reader is given several examples of her lack of decorum. Since this sister-in-law never appears in the novel, is the purpose of this paragraph just to discuss an Iranian custom? And the descriptions of food go on and on: “He filled the pockets not just with beef and onions, but peach jam, saffron rice pudding, smoked sturgeon, potatoes and dill, cabbage and caraway apples, duck confit and chopped orange peel . . .” The author has included some Farsi to add local colour but, again, the translations are awkwardly inserted in parentheses immediately afterwards: “’Agha (Mr.) Nejad, how are you feeling?’” A reader shouldn’t have to be told that tarof means self-deference when the subsequent sentence (“She spoke frankly and without decorum”) indicates its meaning. And would a person actually use a conjunction, and only a conjunction, in another language: “’It’s been a good adventure for her, and you, pero (but) –‘” When Lily asks Karim, who speaks little or no English, “’How do you say brother?’” he understands her question and immediately replies, “’Baradar’”? I fear I have been rather harsh in my review, but I honestly find little to recommend this book. I read an eARC so perhaps changes will be made. Note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. Please check out my reader's blog (http://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski).

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Heartwarming narrative about three generations of an Iranian family, which since the 1930s has opened and run Café Leila, which has become a landmark on that side of Tehran. A story set in present-day is that of Noor, whose father has sent her to America as a teenager with her brother when the Revolution and subsequent ultra-Islamism exploded in the country. There are flashbacks of family history. Noor is now separated from her husband and at the behest of her father, Zod, returns with a sullen, Heartwarming narrative about three generations of an Iranian family, which since the 1930s has opened and run Café Leila, which has become a landmark on that side of Tehran. A story set in present-day is that of Noor, whose father has sent her to America as a teenager with her brother when the Revolution and subsequent ultra-Islamism exploded in the country. There are flashbacks of family history. Noor is now separated from her husband and at the behest of her father, Zod, returns with a sullen, sulky adolescent daughter, Lily, to visit her father. He now runs the café with the help of relatives, also staff that have been there from the beginning. He is very ill with cancer and wants to see her before he dies. We see life in post-Revolution Iran. An act of horrific violence brings something good from it for Lily. This spreads to the whole family. After Zod's death, the day comes when Noor and Lily are to return to the States.... The ending disappointed, but I do see the logic. Such mouth-watering descriptions of Persian cuisine fascinated me. I wish, like "Like Water for Chocolate", to which, although set in a different time and place, I compared this story, the author had included some of the simpler Persian recipes at the back. Not only a gastronome's delight, any local color of Iran and Iranian family life was inspired. Highly recommended. I thank LibraryThing for sending me this ARC in return for my honest review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    This is a complex and beautifully written novel. It centers on family and home. It is crafted around three generations from America to Tehran. Her descriptions,especially about food, are unparalleled. Tis will be one of my favorites for a long time to come.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    I liked the immersion into the cultural part of this as the author described the culture, expectations, the food, and the people. The relationships were also strong, and so was the strength of love and how to face loss. Even though I liked the characters, I just wasn't pulled into this one. I kept waiting for that to happen. The main factor that contributed to that was the descriptive style.....mainly all the descriptions of the food. That part was too much. But this style of writing also filter I liked the immersion into the cultural part of this as the author described the culture, expectations, the food, and the people. The relationships were also strong, and so was the strength of love and how to face loss. Even though I liked the characters, I just wasn't pulled into this one. I kept waiting for that to happen. The main factor that contributed to that was the descriptive style.....mainly all the descriptions of the food. That part was too much. But this style of writing also filtered into other descriptions. It was too wordy for me. So 2 stars.

  12. 5 out of 5

    RoseMary Achey

    Noor has lived in the United States for almost two decades after leaving her native Tehran for University. This is the story of her return to Iran with her recalcitrant teen daughter in tow. A story of family The Last Days of Café Leila is a delight for the senses.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    I found this to be a lovely, emotional read that happily contained beautiful prose. Set in Tehran, it fascinated me with it's emphasis on the influence of the Persian culture on family and traditions. Loved it! I found this to be a lovely, emotional read that happily contained beautiful prose. Set in Tehran, it fascinated me with it's emphasis on the influence of the Persian culture on family and traditions. Loved it!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    4.5 stars, rounded up to 5....I loved this book!! I would not have normally chosen a book mostly based in Iran, but I was fulfilling a challenge for a Goodreads book group & I am so glad I "found" this book to read. Within the walls of Cafe Leila, all the turmoil & unrest from the real world (Iran) have ceased. The food & the culture & the connections to the patrons & to the people who live & work in the cafe were just so lovely. There was love & care & thought but into each meal & the writing & d 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5....I loved this book!! I would not have normally chosen a book mostly based in Iran, but I was fulfilling a challenge for a Goodreads book group & I am so glad I "found" this book to read. Within the walls of Cafe Leila, all the turmoil & unrest from the real world (Iran) have ceased. The food & the culture & the connections to the patrons & to the people who live & work in the cafe were just so lovely. There was love & care & thought but into each meal & the writing & descriptions made me want to learn how to make all of this wonderful sounding foods. I thought this would be a story where the unrest of the country would not enter into it, but that was not to be. It was an emotional journey of family & loss & the conflicts within yourself & within your family involving your culture. Noor was sent to America along with her brother so they could have a better life than their father could give them in Iran. She builds a life there for herself but she has a crisis of her own which sends her back to Iran after being away for 30 years. What she finds there is not the Iran she left & she sees things through new, adult eyes. It truly was a beautifully written story, parts were difficult but realistic. Parts made me angry, both culturally & with some of the people. At times I felt so strongly for Noor & other times I just wanted to shake her. I would highly recommend this book!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lynne

    I’m a huge foodie, which was why Donia Bijan’s The Last Days of Café Leila appealed to me. That, plus the cover is gorgeous! Set in a post-revolutionary Iran in the city of Tehran, The Last Days of Café is a story that is told across time and through three generations of a family through the use of flashbacks and character recollections with the titular cafe being the one stable presence throughout... Full review: http://wp.me/p36jwx-17Z I’m a huge foodie, which was why Donia Bijan’s The Last Days of Café Leila appealed to me. That, plus the cover is gorgeous! Set in a post-revolutionary Iran in the city of Tehran, The Last Days of Café is a story that is told across time and through three generations of a family through the use of flashbacks and character recollections with the titular cafe being the one stable presence throughout... Full review: http://wp.me/p36jwx-17Z

  16. 4 out of 5

    Shilpi Somaya Gowda

    Lovely inter-generational family story in post-revolutionary Iran.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jo Dervan

    Noor returned to her native Tehran after the breakup of her marriage. She and her 15 year old daughter, Lily, traveled from California to visit with her father, Zoli. Noor quickly discovered that the Iran she once knew had changed dramatically after the Islamic government came into power. The Cafe Leila, which had been a owned by her family for 3 generations, was no longer as grand as it had once been but her father and his workers still maintained it as a local gathering place. Then Noor learned Noor returned to her native Tehran after the breakup of her marriage. She and her 15 year old daughter, Lily, traveled from California to visit with her father, Zoli. Noor quickly discovered that the Iran she once knew had changed dramatically after the Islamic government came into power. The Cafe Leila, which had been a owned by her family for 3 generations, was no longer as grand as it had once been but her father and his workers still maintained it as a local gathering place. Then Noor learned that her father was terminally ill and so she decided to remain in Tehran for a longer period so she could use her nursing skill to care for him. The author, an Iranian immigrant who was educated in the US, painted a vivid picture of life had changed under the Islamic government in Iran. She explained about how Noor's grandparents had been immigrants from Russia before settling in Iran. She showed us how a misunderstanding between Noor's mother and a taxi driver resulted in her Mom's imprisonment and death at the hands of the police. The author also used the traditional Iranian foods to show us that although much had changed in the country, the people still held with many traditions. Some of these traditions and activities had to be done secretly in their homes as they were not permitted in public. This is also a story of family bonds that remained strong even after a 30 year separation.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    I finally was able to steal away time today to sit and finish this most beautiful book! Donia Bijan is a wonderful storyteller, with such beautiful language, emotion and feeling. Wow. I just loved reading every page, falling in love with the characters the story and the words themselves as the life of Zod and his family members are revealed to the reader. I loved Donia's first book and was looking forward to this one, and it did not disappoint. I finally was able to steal away time today to sit and finish this most beautiful book! Donia Bijan is a wonderful storyteller, with such beautiful language, emotion and feeling. Wow. I just loved reading every page, falling in love with the characters the story and the words themselves as the life of Zod and his family members are revealed to the reader. I loved Donia's first book and was looking forward to this one, and it did not disappoint.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jane Reagh

    This book is a wonderful combination of luscious and enjoyable reading and fascinating content about Iran and the changes under the Ayatollah. I have read both of Bijan's books and recommend them for anyone who likes to think as well as be entertained. I think this would be a great book for book club discussions! This book is a wonderful combination of luscious and enjoyable reading and fascinating content about Iran and the changes under the Ayatollah. I have read both of Bijan's books and recommend them for anyone who likes to think as well as be entertained. I think this would be a great book for book club discussions!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Bittersweet and absolutely delicious! Thank you Donia Bijan for telling this story and bringing me into a world both unknown and familiar. I will certainly recommend it in our little bookshop, The Book Garden.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Laura Stone

    It was interesting from a cultural standpoint and it started off well but fell off in the latter half. The story just turned rather strange and some odd little short incidents that added nothing overall to the plot. I also didn't care for the ending much. It was interesting from a cultural standpoint and it started off well but fell off in the latter half. The story just turned rather strange and some odd little short incidents that added nothing overall to the plot. I also didn't care for the ending much.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Inga

    A wonderful book to feast over! Beautifully written exquisite imagery.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tonstant Weader

    The Last Days of Café Leila is one of those stories that pluck at your heart strings and captivate your senses. Donia Bijan writes about a loving family that finds its way to love from generation to generation, through the tragedies of revolution and the reluctant diaspora of emigration. The focus of the story is Noor who grew up at Café Leila in Tehran but who was sent to America by her father, Zod, when she graduated high school. Zod sent both his children, hoping to protect them from the exce The Last Days of Café Leila is one of those stories that pluck at your heart strings and captivate your senses. Donia Bijan writes about a loving family that finds its way to love from generation to generation, through the tragedies of revolution and the reluctant diaspora of emigration. The focus of the story is Noor who grew up at Café Leila in Tehran but who was sent to America by her father, Zod, when she graduated high school. Zod sent both his children, hoping to protect them from the excesses of the Iranian theocracy. Noor has been married twenty years when she discovers her husband, Nelson, has been cheating on her. She leaves him. Zod invites her to come back to Tehran for a few weeks hoping to heal her heart. She takes her reluctant and resentful daughter Lily with her. Café Leila is a magical place. Founded by Zod’s Russian immigrant parents Yanik and Nina back in the 1930s, it was a center of hospitality and celebration. The story carries us through their early years, the tragic death of their oldest son that brought Zod back to Tehran from his University studies in Paris to marry Pari, his brother’s fiancée, a happy marriage that perhaps made Noor overly-optimistic about her own. This family is open-hearted and full of life and they draw people in, they take people in, creating an extended family of friends, of employees who are more like family, and even strangers who need shelter. A lot happens during Noor’s visit back to Tehran, some of it delightful, some of it dangerous and frightening, and it changes Noor…you might say she comes of age. I loved The Last Days of Café Leila though I cried more than I like. I loved the people of the Café, this huge, informal family that kept true to the spirit of hospitality and family through hardship, loss, and separation. I enjoyed the book and want the author to write a cookbook. The author has written a memoir with recipes, but I want lots of recipes and pictures because this book made me hungry. The descriptions of cooking and food are everywhere, rich and evocative and worth drooling over. She creates such a complete and living picture of Café Leila I will be disappointed if there is no such cafe somewhere in Tehran. Any family saga covering multiple generations will have a mix of grief and joy. Most of the time, the grief is balanced by love, though the tragic death of Pari, Noor’s mother, can never be balanced, only endured. She and Zod were magnificent and her death broke something in Noor that was only truly mended more than thirty years later when she returned. While The Last Days of Café Leila is sad at times, most of the time it is joyful and vibrant. It’s one of those books that would make a wonderful film that would be shot with with filmy lenses and bright sunlight, with beautiful music, and there would be roles for half the BBC Masterpiece Theater roster. The Last Days of Café Leila will be published April 18th. I received an advance e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley. ★★★★ http://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpres...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Afsi

    This book left me so nostalgic and brought back such a flood of memories from decades ago I could taste the delicious meals, see the places, and smell the food. So much resonated: the gentility and pride of the people, the family’s love and intense loyalty for each other and their extended family, the generosity and grace they showed everyone, the horror and brutality of living through and escaping a revolution, the sadness of fleeing your homeland for the unknown, the struggle to learn a new la This book left me so nostalgic and brought back such a flood of memories from decades ago I could taste the delicious meals, see the places, and smell the food. So much resonated: the gentility and pride of the people, the family’s love and intense loyalty for each other and their extended family, the generosity and grace they showed everyone, the horror and brutality of living through and escaping a revolution, the sadness of fleeing your homeland for the unknown, the struggle to learn a new language and customs, and more...captured so well by this writer. She has lived the lives of her characters. A really nuanced and lovely portrayal of Iran, Iranians, and the richness of the traditions and culture of that ancient land. The story touched me deeply. My family scattered across the globe after the ayatollahs wrecked havoc with ordinary people’s lives. The sadness of so many lives wasted and lost is well represented in this story. Yet, the book is all about love and family in their many enduring and splendid forms. Really well done. I would have given it 5 stars other than I found the ending somewhat contrived. She had me all the way, but lost me in the last two chapters!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Minh

    At times this novel brought me to tears, walking through the crowds at my train station I suddenly felt my chest heave with pain and for the rest of the night I was consumed with thoughts of Cafe Leila and the four generations of family who had laughed, loved and lived in its walls. Despite having lived in America for the past 30 years, it's to her homeland Iran and Cafe Leila that Noor turns to when her marriage begins to disintegrate, dragging a reluctant Americanised daughter in her wake. She At times this novel brought me to tears, walking through the crowds at my train station I suddenly felt my chest heave with pain and for the rest of the night I was consumed with thoughts of Cafe Leila and the four generations of family who had laughed, loved and lived in its walls. Despite having lived in America for the past 30 years, it's to her homeland Iran and Cafe Leila that Noor turns to when her marriage begins to disintegrate, dragging a reluctant Americanised daughter in her wake. She has returned to see her father Zod, an endearing totem standing strong in the walls of her childhood home, but it doesn't take long for her to realise that the Tehran of her childhood is very different to the reality of today. Broken into generations of family, we explore via music, food, family, culture and the sheer poetry of words what it is to have an identity. As a child of immigrants the entire novel struck a chord with me, and I devoured every word.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ellyn

    A novel that has romance, family and a location that teaches you about other cultures, is a perfect read! I really enjoyed this book and this family !

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    This is a story about love, betrayal, food, and Iranian culture. It took time for me to like this book but eventually I got into it. The thing I liked the most was learning about Iran and hearing about the food: written in mouth watering descriptions. In fact, I am making Pomegranate soup for dinner tomorrow night. I was less enamored with the characters and I had a hard time keeping them straight. I liked the book but it did not pull at my heart strings as I had hoped.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sally Monaghan

    I really loved this book. It was so interesting to read about life in Iran before and after the Revolution. I loved the characters, and could smell the delicious food. Now, I need to go to a Persian restaurant. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars was because I thought that the transformation of the relationship between mother and daughter, and the daughter's acceptance of being in Iran was a little sudden. But, I do recommend the book. I really loved this book. It was so interesting to read about life in Iran before and after the Revolution. I loved the characters, and could smell the delicious food. Now, I need to go to a Persian restaurant. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars was because I thought that the transformation of the relationship between mother and daughter, and the daughter's acceptance of being in Iran was a little sudden. But, I do recommend the book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    January Gray

    I really enjoyed this book and would read it again.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Loved getting to know the characters and taking a look at Iran from their points of view.

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