A large Iranian family lives in a compound of houses surrounding a garden, and they're ruled over by the patriarch, Dear Uncle. He has so much admiration for Napoleon, and so much conviction that his own life mirrors that of the French general, that the kids call him Dear Uncle Napoleon. In fact he is narrow, paranoid, and blustering; he's convinced himself that he was a great warrior against the English in his youth, and the whole family revolves around his tyrannical bad temper.
And the narrator, a young boy who is never named, falls in love with Dear Uncle's daughter Layli.
Unfortunately, the boy's father has a bit of a feud going with Dear Uncle, and spends most of the novel encouraging his paranoia about the English. Boy's only confidant is his Uncle Asadollah, who is sympathetic, but also has a one-track mind. His solution is always the same--"a little trip to San Francisco," which is his favorite euphemism and only topic of conversation.
With all the crazy relatives around, it's constant mayhem in the compound. Most of the novel is farcical comedy and convoluted situations that remind me of old Three's Company episodes. But at the heart is a core of sadness and tragedy--a protest at how narrow-minded curmudgeons arrange the lives of the younger generation without ever considering their feelings.