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The Saffron Kitchen Hardcover – December 28, 2006
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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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
If she wrote another book I'd read it and hope she's grown as a writer and executes it better.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Gave us a perspective of Iran, how people live in the cities and country. Wouldn't have that info in a personal form. Enjoyed the book once I realized who was saying it.Published 4 months ago by Judy Luplow
I don't get for one moment how there can be any 1 star reviews? LOL This is hands down my most favorite book ever. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Jamie L.
hard to follow all the strange names and cities. I finished the book only because I will discuss it at book club.Published 10 months ago by Sondra Kalish
This book is about real life-- no simple choices. We are all a product of our upbringing, and to really understand someone, you must understand their past. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Coloma girl
At first it's a little confusing due to narration transitions between characters, and flashbacks. Other than that it's great, and I totally recommend it. Read morePublished 19 months ago by shawntay
but i feel i have to speak up about this beautifully written novel. i loved the two varied voices of the iranian mother and english-iranian daughter. Read morePublished 23 months ago by J. Barth
Surprisingly good book! I read this book on a recommendation and it was not my usual style of book, but very enlightening. It was well worth reading.Published on September 5, 2013 by Kitty
Bought a CD to listen to the story during a long trip. The reader's distinctly British dialect was not easy on my North American ears. My sister praised the book she read. Read morePublished on February 10, 2013 by R. Kampa