I failed utterly to get into this at all.
I know this is entirely my fault: the book, which is translated from the Dutch and tells a story about the modernisation of Persia (modern-day Iran) through the eyes of a weak shah, clearly draws on a literary tradition that I have no experience of. It's told as a fairytale of sorts - simple language, rare dialogue, events often summarised rather than experienced. Historical characters are fictionalised, and I think a century or so of history is collapsed into the reign of one shah, which makes the historical era hard to place.
In other words, the novel seems to be going for a certain kind of fictionalisation of history - making it, almost, into legend.
Which is interesting, in its way. I think it's probably doing some interesting thinking somewhere in there. But I just couldn't get emotionally invested.