Select one of the keywords
The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran    by Andrew Scott Cooper order for
Fall of Heaven
by Andrew Scott Cooper
Order:  USA  Can
Henry Holt, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran, Andrew Scott Cooper addresses what happened (and why it happened) in great detail.

He portrays Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as a ruler who tried to keep a balance between idealism and pragmatism, who had a vision for his country and did a great deal of good in his White Revolution and its aftermath. But the Shah also made big mistakes, made poor choices in subordinates, and seriously underestimated the opposition's ability to manipulate the masses. All of this was compounded by the interventions of foreign powers, who did so with little understanding of what was actually happening, and of the unexpected consequences that would ensue.

Cooper opens on the February 2015 reunion of Jehan Sadat and Farah Pahlavi in Cairo, telling us that forty years before, they were 'young women at the forefront of progressive change in the Middle East .. Their activism was encouraged by two husbands who welcomed the presence of strong, intelligent wives as partners and helpmates.' He also reminds us that 'the removal of their husbands from power a generation earlier opened the floodgates to today's carnage.'

Cooper tells us that 'The controversy and confusion that surrounded the Shah's human rights record overshadowed his many real accomplishments in the fields of women's rights, literacy, health care, education, and modernization.' If you were alive in the 1970s, think back to your impression of the Shah at that time - an 'emperor of oil' accelerating his country into modernity, the good that he did overshadowed by repression and Savak. Such was the Western perspective. And Khomeini (who was never supported by the moderate clerical majority) was portrayed as a saintly figure. Sure looks different in hindsight.

Having traveled through Iran in 1978 (as part of an overland London-Kathmandu trip), I saw the country just before all this exploded, met and conversed with locals and ex-pats, and was fascinated by the mix of modern and medieval on all sides. What struck me most in The Fall of Heaven is how easily Khomeini (funded by Libya's Gaddafi and others and after an economic downturn) manipulated the Iranian middle class and world media, who had no clue that he would rule with an iron fist and slaughter Iranians in the thousands.

It's very disturbing to realize how blatant lies and propaganda got so much traction in a paranoid society, and sparked a revolution whose outcome was so different from what its activists anticipated. In a world in which social media allows such misinformation to go viral, can we possibly learn from history?

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more NonFiction books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews