The Saffron Kitchen

The Saffron Kitchen

3.5 19
by Yasmin Crowther
     
 

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In a powerful debut novel that moves between the crowded streets of London and the desolate mountains of Iran, Yasmin Crowther paints a stirring portrait of a family shaken by events from decades ago and worlds away. On a rainy day in London the dark secrets and troubled past of Maryam Mazar surface violently, with tragic consequences for her daughter, Sara, and her…  See more details below

Overview

In a powerful debut novel that moves between the crowded streets of London and the desolate mountains of Iran, Yasmin Crowther paints a stirring portrait of a family shaken by events from decades ago and worlds away. On a rainy day in London the dark secrets and troubled past of Maryam Mazar surface violently, with tragic consequences for her daughter, Sara, and her newly orphaned nephew. Maryam leaves her English husband and family and returns to the remote Iranian village where her story began. In a quest to piece their life back together, Sara follows her mother and finally learns the terrible price Maryam once had to pay for her freedom, and of the love she left behind. Set against the breathtaking beauty of two very different places, this stunning family drama transcends culture and is, at its core, a rich and haunting narrative about mothers and daughters.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Maryam is the willful daughter of an Iranian general who backed the Shah of Iran during the (U.S.-backed) 1953 coup that toppled Iran's prime minister, Mossadegh. In the midst of the turmoil, and with the threat of an arranged marriage hanging over her, Maryam is sheltered one night by her father's trusted assistant, Ali, a young man near her age 16 for whom she feels a shy attraction. And though still a virgin the next morning, their feelings for each other are clear. Maryam is sent away by her aloof father ("she is no daughter of mine"), a painful memory that, decades later, shatters her settled marriage to an understanding if pained British husband, and bewilders and angers her own daughter. A 40-year separation from Ali and a tender reunion in a remote village are just a few turns of the intense plot, full of tragic coilings and romantic passion, that make this a wonderfully intricate debut novel. Crowther, daughter of a British father and an Iranian mother, powerfully depicts Maryam's wrenching romantic and nationalistic longings, exploring the potency of heritage and the pain of exile. (Jan. 2) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Crowther's uneven debut, split between London and Iran, traces the journey a mother and daughter make to close the distance between their lives. A tragic accident begins the tale, unraveling life-as-usual for Maryam and her daughter Sara. When Maryam hits her nephew Saeed (who, following the death of his mother in Iran, now lives in London with Maryam and husband Edward), she sends the frightened boy running to a bridge. Sara chases him, and in the struggle, miscarries her child. Before Sara even leaves the hospital, Maryam is off to Iran, guilty, disconsolate, unable to sustain the fragile patchwork of her past and present. Back in Iran, in the rural village where she spent idyllic summers, she reflects on the troubled year that the Shah was returned to power and she was banished from home. With her father, a wealthy general, high-spirited Maryam and her two sisters live a privileged life. She even has an English tutor, young Ali, who is teaching her Matthew Arnold's classic poem, "Dover Beach." Her nanny Fatima binds her breasts to keep her seemingly girlish, but her father is considering marriage for her while Maryam dreams of travel and a life away from her father's restrictions. An unavoidable and innocent indiscretion with Ali dishonors her father, who then disowns her. Maryam becomes a nurse, goes to England and marries sweet Edward, while she recites "Dover Beach" to the sea, hoping her voice will reach Ali. While Maryam indulges in her reveries and reconnects with Ali, Sara and Edward attempt to get on with life in England. Edward has given up, believing Maryam will never return-in fact, was never really his-and Sara, now caring for Saeed, tries to understand why a lost childhoodin Iran is more vital to her mother than the ensuing 30 years in England with the family she created. Indeed, it is a question readers will ask-and that Sara poses when she eventually travels to Iran-but one that Maryam is unable to adequately answer. Though Crowther builds an evocative portrait of Iran and the painful pull of two cultures, too much of the novel hinges on an overly enigmatic character and her vague longing for the indefinable idea of home. Agent: Toby Eady/Toby Eady Associates
From the Publisher
"Beautiful . . . A heartfelt story about unbreakable family bonds."
-Entertainment Weekly

"A wonderfully intricate debut novel . . . exploring the potency of heritage and the pain of exile."
-Publishers Weekly, starred review

"The Saffron Kitchen has a dreamlike quality that gradually draws in and washes over a reader."
-USA Today

"A fine novel of cultural and generational tension."
-Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"A moving look at the plight of the immigrant torn between two homes."
-The Christian Science Monitor

"With richly descriptive language evoking the riotous streets of Iran to the comfortable London suburbs, Crowther's well-crafted narrative will keep readers eagerly turning the pages of this poetic debut about mothers and daughters."
-PAGES

"Crowther's debut is spellbinding, and her cross-cultural perception and empathy are illuminating and affecting."
-Booklist

"An unusual and satisfying read."
-The Guardian, London

"A book about edges . . . where unconscious drives become seemingly rational decisions; and where different cultural values confront each other . . . Crowther [is] a novelist of exceptional honesty and grace."
-The Sunday Telegraph, London

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781440623295
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/28/2007
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
642,975
File size:
221 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Beautiful . . . A heartfelt story about unbreakable family bonds."
-Entertainment Weekly

"A wonderfully intricate debut novel . . . exploring the potency of heritage and the pain of exile."
-Publishers Weekly, starred review

"The Saffron Kitchen has a dreamlike quality that gradually draws in and washes over a reader."
-USA Today

"A fine novel of cultural and generational tension."
-Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"A moving look at the plight of the immigrant torn between two homes."
-The Christian Science Monitor

"With richly descriptive language evoking the riotous streets of Iran to the comfortable London suburbs, Crowther's well-crafted narrative will keep readers eagerly turning the pages of this poetic debut about mothers and daughters."
-PAGES

"Crowther's debut is spellbinding, and her cross-cultural perception and empathy are illuminating and affecting."
-Booklist

"An unusual and satisfying read."
-The Guardian, London

"A book about edges . . . where unconscious drives become seemingly rational decisions; and where different cultural values confront each other . . . Crowther [is] a novelist of exceptional honesty and grace."
-The Sunday Telegraph, London

Read More

Meet the Author

Yasmin Crowther was born to an Iranian mother and a British father. After graduating from Oxford, she worked for a variety of corporations on issues of globalization and sustainable development. This is her first novel.

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