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Salt and Saffron Paperback – Bargain Price, May 15, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (May 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158234261X
  • ASIN: B0002D6CM0
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,417,287 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Clever, witty and inventive, this engaging novel tackles the challenges of reconciling one culture's progressive values with another's allegiance to family and tradition. Shamsie, well-known in her native Pakistan for a prize-winning first novel, In the City by the Sea, writes about Anglo-Indian culture clash with a subtlety and wit that recall Rushdie. Aliya, just graduated from an American college, heads home for the summer to her family in Pakistan for another kind of education, this one focused on the dynamics of class and love and directed by her well-heeled but intolerant relatives. While lively, likable characters with a shared passion for relaying stories from the family's colorful past, Aliya's kin annoy her with their disdain for those who do not share their distinguished lineage. The storied family curse of "not-quite-twins," relatives close in age who share a cosmic connection and disgrace the family's name, becomes more threat than myth when an aunt labels Aliya and her beloved cousin, Mariam Apa, as "not-quites." Indeed, Aliya has been bitterly estranged from a number of her relatives, especially her grandmother Dadi, since their scornful rejection of Mariam, a near-mute who eloped with the family cook. When Aliya finds herself drawn to a Westernized Pakistani whose parents hail from the slums of Karachi, her disillusionment with her family's snobbery and her identification with the unfortunate Mariam intensifies. However, as Aliya leans more about her family's tangled history, especially her grandmother's life and the three men at the center of it brothers divided by India and Pakistan's separation she learns that she, too, has been quick to judge. Her family turns out to be more passionate and complex than Aliya assumes, just as this winning novel resonates more deeply than its lighthearted tone would suggest. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Shamsie's second novel (following In the City by the Sea) centers on a Pakistani woman caught between the 21st century and her family's feudal past, between salt (ordinary people) and saffron (the elite). Saffron is a luxury, but salt is a necessity, Aliya learns in this charming, witty exploration of class values. In the Dard-e-Dil family, descended from land-rich nawabs, there's a history of "not-quites" (twins, triplets, cousins) who are fated to bring dishonor upon their name. Aliya's "not-quite" is cousin Mariam Apa, who elopes with the cook. Will Aliya repeat history by falling for Khaleel, from Karachi's other side of the tracks? Mysterious Mariam Apa preoccupies Aliya's brooding summer as she tries to make sense of family lore. But center stage is held by her beguiling grandmother, Dadi, beloved by "not-quite" triplet brothers, whose past serves up the climax of this erudite, disarming novel. Shamsie is from a literary/artistic family that includes great-aunt Attia Hosain and mother Muneeza Shamsie (both writers) and filmmaker cousin Waris Hosain. Recommended for all collections.DJo Manning, Barry Univ., Miami Shores, FL
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I'll be eagerly looking forward to future books.
benecia
The prose did seem a bit `thick' and overly descriptive in parts, and probably could've been shortened, but it wasn't enough to detract from the book as a whole.
JessH
"Salt and Saffron" is filled with enough enchanting tales to keep Shaharazad happy, but some of the "real life" story just doesn't ring true.
Jana L. Perskie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John?4 on June 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a pleasant enough book with some wonderful vignettes, and yes, it does make you long for the nearest subcontinental restaurant. I just found the focus on yet another wildly dysfunctional family, even one with royal pretensions, a bit underwhelming. She also leaves many central questions purposefully unresolved, and her musings on possible motivations for some characters' highly unusual behavior were unconvincing.

Instead, or at least first, I recommend Shamsie's later "Broken Verses," which deals with modernity, Pakistani politics, poetry and the role of women PLUS the obligatory dysfunctional family. It's both more intellectually complex and a more gripping read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By benecia on June 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I didn't know what to expect from this book. The book's online description seemed a little confusing, but also intriguing--ancient family secrets, exotic lineages, a hint of magic realism--and I was taken by the beautiful cover image, so I thought I'd give it a try. I'm glad I did.
"Salt and Saffron" is populated by a fascinating cast of characters, from the main character, Aliya's, ancestors to her extended present-day family, and the story--part mythology and fable, part contemporary romance, part serious meditation on politics and social classes in Pakistan--is utterly enjoyable. These are all held together by lyrical, energetic, and very smart writing.
Having read the works of Salman Rushdie, Mohsin Hamid, Amitav Ghosh, Amy Tan, Maxine Hong Kingston, Garcia Marquez, and others who mix myth and fantasy with reality, past with present, I can honestly say that Ms. Shamsie is a writer to keep an eye on. I'll be eagerly looking forward to future books.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Denes F. House on October 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I am surprised to read some of these reviews. This is a skillfully written book that sparkles with wit, culture, and intrigue. There ARE majestic descriptions of food within, as well as lengthy passages relating family history, but far from being distractions from the main story, they are alternate ways of telling the main story. Kamila Shamsie uses all the tools at her disposal to help the reader connect with her tale of awakening to, confronting, and digesting issues of class and caste in life.
I found the novel enjoyable from beginning to end, and more than that - substantial. In the sense that a wonderful, savory, tantalizing meal is also substantial - it fills the hungering part of you. While the meal fills the belly and awakens the senses, this novel fills the soul and awakens the conscience. This novel is good not in the "eat your vegetables - they are good for you" sense, but in the "it was good spending time with you" sense.
Well done, Shamsie. I eagerly await your next novel.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Sahara on March 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
A convoluted story which stretches from the Mughal era to present day and tries to connect characters and fates from each to the other. Central is the theroy of the 'not quite twins', each set of each generation supposedly destined to bring tragedy on the Dard-e-dil clan. The protagonist, Aliya, fears herself to be a not quite twin with one Marium. Marium has already brought social calamity on the family and now the family is wondering if she is family at all. Aliya fears that she too will become a pariah -even in her own eyes- because she has fallen for a guy from the wrong side of the tracks. The most intersting story line in the novel is that of the class differences, but not much time is spent exploting this. The rest i.e. the laborious food descriptions that became repetitive, and the long winded family history, were for me, eventually tedious. I finished the novel because I am a Pakistani and find it hard to come by any novels set in Pakistan. Had it been set elsewhere I may have put it down. To be read only if you are very, very bored.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Love Books on May 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
I am an avid reader and have found a lot of books which get wonderful reviews and blurbs only to find the book itself to be average. Salt and Saffron was such a pleasant surprise. The story was absorbing and kept one wondering what would happen next. It was affectionately written with a love for families -can't live without them no matter how much they may annoy sometimes. The writing style was a little self-consciously elaborate at times (the author should simplify her style a little because great stories are best told in simpler language) but overall, a wonderful read.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Aliya, a Pakistani woman returning home after completing college in America, must reconcile her heart's yearnings with her sense of familial responsibility. Her world is a complex tapestry of old ways and new, Eastern and Western, privileged and common, woven together by family legends and secrets. Shamsie imbues the story with a fresh and uncommon lyricism, deliciously mingling drama, mystery, romance, history, and comedy, with a hint of Rushdie-esque wit and magic. Pure enchantment, this book overflows with pleasures!
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Format: Paperback
Firstly, be careful when reading some of the below reviews. One reviewer completely gives away one of the main surprises! I would've been so mad if I accidently read that before I got through the book. Anyway, I read "Kartography" before I read this book. It's not as polished at "Kartography", but I still enjoyed a lot of the wit and mystery Shamsie provided in "Salt and Saffron". It took me a little while to get through the first half or so of the book, but then it really picked up and I couldn't put it down. I felt like she left some things unanswered, which I was slightly disappointed by (hence the 4, not 5 stars), but overall an entertaining read!
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