A Hundred Sweet Promises
Appleyard & Sons Publishing (2021)
Reviewed by Terri Stepek for Reader Views (08/2022)
On the eve of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, a beloved grandmother opens her grandson’s eyes to his family history. His head is filled with the story of his grandfather, a Russian princess, Tsar Nicholas, and previous Shahs of Persia. A tale of love, loss, fame, and family, the history she told expanded the young man’s perspective of life.
“Love is fearless in the midst of the sea of fear.” – Rumi
Nasrollah Minbashian, later known as “Nasrosoltan” Minbashian, was the son of Gholam Reza Khan “Salar Moazaz” Minbashian, a famously celebrated and decorated Iranian musician. Don’t be intimidated by the names and titles that may not roll easily through a mind wired for more western attributes. To do so would be to miss an incredible story set in the Persia of the early 1900s: an unknown or forgotten Persia to many of us in modern western culture.
Nasrosoltan walked in his father’s footsteps as a great musician, having attended the world-renowned St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia from his early youth. In his lifetime, Nasrosoltan achieved both fame and status in his home country, rising to become a colonel in the Persian Cossack Brigade of Tehran as well as Director of the Iranian Conservatory. But it’s not his fame nor his achievements that are the real story here. This story is about a man whose kismet wove a bittersweet path through his life.
I’ll admit to struggling a bit with this story at first. It’s not a fast-paced tale, and the characters speak in the staid yet rambling style common to the area and time. Why say something in five words when you can use fifty words instead? This more formal, stylized form of speech demands a slower pace. I wanted things to move a bit more quickly, of course. But the author has given his readers an unparalleled view of this early 20th century Persia, so different from the Iran of today that we would be remiss not to allow this story to unfold at the appropriate measure.
Through the eyes of Nasrosoltan we glimpse not just Persia, but the Russia of the last tsar, Nicholas Romanov, and his extended family. As his love for the beautiful Princess Irina takes flight, he is a man consumed by the consciousness that they are of two different worlds that will never mesh. Yet he believes so strongly in kismet that he is convinced they must indeed be fated for each other.
“And with that desire came the understanding that courage was not the absence of fear but the overcoming of it.”
I became mesmerized as Nasrosoltan struggled with his father, his dreams, and his destiny. He was an emotional ping-pong ball, bouncing from hope to despair with such frequency it was impossible to turn away. It seemed a few ill-timed words could have this young lover falling from the height of true love’s peak to the depths of despair. How could these young lovers overcome the odds?
The author, in penning this novel, has allowed us into a love note he has written for his ancestors. As one of the characters stated, “always remember this about death; people only die when you forget them!” The author, in remembering the remarkable lives of his grandfather and great grandfather, helps them live on for more generations to discover. Included within the ebook are links to some of the songs mentioned in the story, including the National Anthem of Persia composed by his great grandfather. I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy historical reads, both fiction and non-fiction.