Salon recommends

An addictive biography of William Randolph Hearst, an intoxicating tale of disobedient lovers in war-torn Iran and more.

By Salon Staff

Published February 26, 2001 8:40PM (EST)

What we're reading, what we're liking

The Persian Bride by James Buchan
This British novel has been touted as another "Dr. Zhivago," and there is in fact something similar in its political/historical sweep and its romantic appeal. It tells the tale of a young, true-hearted British student who falls in love with the daughter of a cruel Iranian military commander on the eve of the Islamic revolution. Buchan's description of the young couple's death-defying elopement and their "honeymoon" on the lam from the bride's dangerously unforgiving father is breathtaking to read, an intoxicating mix of suspense and eros. The young lovers pay a terrible price for their passionate rebellion against Iranian custom. Buchan gives a punishing portrait of life inside the mullahs' penal system, as the couple is caught up in the machinery of Islamic justice, as well as a harrowing picture of life on the suicidal front lines of the Iran-Iraq bloodfest which slogged on through much of the 1980s. By the novel's end, the no-longer young Englishman's love has been hammered into hard metal by some of the century's cruelest affronts. "The Persian Bride" is a demanding love story, but well worth the commitment.

--David Talbot

The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst by David Nasaw
When my boss originally urged this biography on me, I resisted -- sure he likes it, I thought: It's about a carousing, power-crazed California publishing magnate. How quick to scoff I was, and how wrong. Nasaw's meticulously crafted "riches to more riches" account of Hearst's canny construction of the first American media empire is addictive reading, filled with famous characters -- movie stars! politicians! -- and intriguing new interpretations of such standard stories as Hearst's shift from the left to the right end of the political spectrum. Hearst's life is a better story than you get in most novels these days -- and I hear someone once made a movie about him, too...

--Laura Miller

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