April 2, 2008

The Saffron Kitchen, by Yasmin Crowther

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

In The Saffron Kitchen, Yasmin Crowther has captured, with uncanny accuracy and grace, the deep confusion and conflict visited upon a mother and her daughter by their respective histories. The mother, Maryam, is an Iranian woman, daughter of a general and member of a well-respected family during the Shah's reign. When she became separated from her family at the start of the revolution and was sheltered chastely overnight by Ali, her father's servant, her life was forever changed. Disowned by her father, she moves to Tehran to become a nurse and then to London, where she meets and marries Edward, a fine and gentle man who adores her. When the story begins, their daughter, Sara, born in England, married to an Englishman, and ignorant of her mother's haunted history, is newly pregnant. When she miscarries, during a dramatic confrontation with her mother and her young Iranian cousin, years of secrets and pretending unravel at last.

Maryam decides to go to Iran, to distance herself from these events. What follows, in Crowther's revelatory manner, is a perfect portrayal of a half-life, one lived only on the surface. Maryam comes into her own when she goes back to her village; the sights, sounds, and smells all beckon to her with their sweet familiarity. England falls away, with all its confusing customs and strange language, as does Edward, with his so very different background. Beckoned by her mother, Sara comes to visit and to ferret out the particulars of her mother's past. The question remains: will Maryam return to Edward and England or stay where she is once again at home?

This was an interesting, well written book, but some readers might go into it with expectations that won't be fulfilled. It's not a book about life in Iran, or cross-cultural marriage, or growing up biracial, or some fantastic family secret; all compelling things one would assume from reading this synopsis. It's about people and relationships, about a Romeo and Juliet situation in which Romeo and Juliet did not die but grew up to live separate lives. In that way it is very eloquent. The secret often hinted at throughout the book turns out not to be a secret at all, or even anything very thought provoking. As long as the reader goes into it realizing this, it is a good read.

1 comment:

  1. This one sounds very interesting to me. These are the kinds of books I like.


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