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The Saffron Kitchen Hardcover – December 28, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; 1st Us Edition edition (December 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670038113
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670038114
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,675,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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?

Crowther writes with great insight about attempting to cast off one's past--and the impossibility of doing so. The saffron kitchen of the title is a lovely evocation, both symbolic and actual, of what gets left behind and of one daughter's willingness to occupy both worlds. --Valerie Ryan

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

A very difficult choice, one that will cause heartache no matter what.
R. Golen
I have to say that although the writing was solid, the story just didn't grab me, and I wasn't totally sympathetic to the characters' actions.
Pat French
In many ways I was enraptured with this story as I was with Kite Runner.
Julie D. Kravetz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Julie D. Kravetz on September 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
I adored this story. Clearly, Crowther is a masterful story teller. I enjoyed the development of her vivid characters and her love of language. As I was reading this book I had a deep appreciation of how well sentances were crafted, so deliberately and selectively. In many ways I was enraptured with this story as I was with Kite Runner. This is a multilayered story infused with heart, sadness and hope. I would highly recommend it. My thanks to the author for a touching, lasting read that I will gladly recommend to others.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on January 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In London, Iranian expatriate Maryam hits her nephew Saeed who lives with her and her husband Edward since his mother died. Saeed runs away to avoid a beating, but Maryam's pregnant daughter Sara chases him and then miscarries. While Sara despondently recuperates in the hospital, Maryam, feeling guilt, runs away to the village in Iran where as a child she spent the happiest moments of her life.

Maryam looks back to the moment everything changed for her. She and her two sisters enjoyed an upper class lifestyle due to their father being a General loyal to the newly installed Shah. Her sire hired a tutor Ali, whose teachings include Arnold's "Dover Beach", which led to the teen dreaming of far away places. However, her strict father catches her and Ali committing an unacceptable though innocent transgression; he throws her out. Maryam became a nurse, moved to Arnold's England, married kindhearted Edward, had a daughter while pining for her Ali, until she finally leaves behind those who cared about her.

This is a wonderful character driven mid twentieth century clash of cultures. Edward is a stiff upper lip Englishman who knows his wife will never return to him; Sara cannot comprehend her mother's soul searching yearning for what she lost three decades earlier; finally Maryam is enigmatic with her need to go home even though her memories are no longer there. Though her desires are not fully understandable as a longing is different than a doing, fans will appreciate this deep look at a woman pulled by two cultures.

Harriet Klausner
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Pat French on April 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
I read this one next for the book club. I have to say that although the writing was solid, the story just didn't grab me, and I wasn't totally sympathetic to the characters' actions. Granted, my frame of reference is American (the story takes place in the UK and Iran), but I had trouble understanding the mother's behavior, in particular--she came across as selfish and avoidant to me. I give it a B.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By mellowsaffron on March 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
I liked the plot and the book well written except for the transitions between mother and daughter as well as past and present. They weren't all that smooth. I didn't like how Yasmin Crowther went back and forth between 1st person and 3rd person which also contributed to problems with the transitions.

If she wrote another book I'd read it and hope she's grown as a writer and executes it better.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By algo41 on December 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Crowther cleverly joins together two ideas: a marriage where one partner respects and likes the other, but cannot truly love him; a refugee who has a strong emotional attachment to her native Iran, and cannot ever develop a similar attachment to her new country, despite its greater comforts and freedom. Add in a daughter who only as an adult must come to terms with the true state of her parent's marriage.

The mother's childhood is fascinating, and is the best part of the novel. The daughter's changing emotions as she goes to Iran to bring back her mother are nicely depicted, as is her reactions to her miscarriage. Maryam and her father both confound our expectations. Maryam is more complex, and not as "good" as we might expect, while Maryam's father is less complex and more simply cruel and self centered than Maryam would like to think. Maryam says she loved her husband as much as two people from different worlds can, which is consistent with her character, but also self serving, and a terrible view of the limits of love. Maryam says (p.216) her father did not believe she was a virgin, and so she had to leave, but in fact he found out she was, and his vengeance on her can only be explained as rage. Ali is correct in his assessment of his character.

Several of the secondary characters are simply role players: the daughter's loving husband, the understanding 2nd wife in the village; fortunately, Maryam's childhood nurse does not fit into this category, nor does her English husband.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Golen on August 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I found this immigrant story very satisfying. Being the grandson of immigrants I had marvelled at my grandparent's dual lives. This novel tells the story of an immigrant who never can fully assimulate into London's society. Maryam (the heroine of the story) has fought for the right to make choices her whole life. This fight has not been without consequences, some dire. Now Maryam must chose between East and West, her living family and her dying heritage. A very difficult choice, one that will cause heartache no matter what. The story is a beautiful reminder that East and West, while different culturally, are both peopled by real human beings, with similar hopes and fears.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By TrishNYC VINE VOICE on August 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book almost from page one. The writing was spell binding and the characters were engaging and not at all predictable. But what I will say next is that by the end of the book I ended up not liking the main character, Maryam Mazar, even if I did sympathized with her on some level. I felt that she was selfish in her final decision and that she thought more about herself than about the people who loved her. Maryam Mazar is a woman who at the inception of the story is a sixty something lady. She lives in London now but her country of origin and birth is Iran. Through some circumstances, she is forced to leave home and settle in London where she meets a wonderful man and has a lovely daughter. In the beginning of the book, there is a tragedy that sends Maryam reeling and she seeks out her home in Iran, retreating from the misery that unfolds in London. I cannot delve much more into the particulars of what happens but here is where I found her decisions hard to stomach. She makes a choice that to me was very selfish and somewhat immature. Why would you leave behind all the love and care that your husband and daughter have showered you with for a life that you have not known for more than forty something years? By the time she goes back most of the people that were key actors in her life in Iran are dead and only a few important ones remain. She discards her present happiness for a past that she has somewhat eulogized in her mind and in my opinion was not totally deserving of its praises. I totally understand that because of the way in which she was forced to leave Iran, she never made peace with certain aspects of her life but I believe that we can make choices as to who we love and the importance that that love will hold in our lives.Read more ›
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