the book jacket:
Beneath the holy mountain Croagh Patrick, in
damp and lovely County Mayo, sits the small,
sheltered village of Ballinacroagh. To the
exotic Aminpour sisters, Ireland looks like
a much-needed safe haven. It has been seven
years since Marjan Aminpour fled Iran with
her younger sisters, Bahar and Layla, and
she hopes that in Ballinacroagh, a land of
"crazed sheep and dizzying roads," they
might finally find a home.
From the kitchen of an old pastry shop on Main Mall, the sisters set about creating a Persian oasis. Soon sensuous wafts of cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron float through the streets - an exotic aroma that announces the opening of the Babylon Café, and a shock to a town that generally subsists on boiled cabbage and Guinness served at the local tavern. And it is an affront to the senses of Ballinacroagh's uncrowned king, Thomas McGuire. After trying to buy the old pastry shop for years and failing, Thomas is enraged to find it occupied--and by foreigners, no less.
But the mysterious, spicy fragrances work their magic on the townsfolk, and soon, business is booming....... Infused with the textures and scents, trials and triumphs of two distinct cultures, Pomegranate Soup is an infectious novel - a richly detailed story, highlighted with delicious recipes - a delectable journey into the heart of Persian cooking and Irish living.
Comment: If you liked Joanne Harris's Chocolat, you're going to love Pomegranate Soup - a tale as warm and vibrant as the bubbling samovar around which the cafe hums; but don't be mistaken into thinking that just because this first novel is as comforting as a good cup of tea that it is not without substance. Set in Ireland a few years after the Iranian revolution (i.e. mid to late-80s), the strong-willed Aminpour sisters are determined to put down roots in their new home - indeed, it's a matter of survival that they succeed - not that the European welfare system would ever leave them starving on the streets, but the eldest sister, Marjan, realizes that this could be their last chance to settle and make a real life for themselves in this alien and antagonistic new place; but these things can't be hurried - it takes time to win over people, especially in an entrenched small town community unused to foreigners. How they succeed (or not - you'll have to read it to find out), and how they face down their personal demons in the process and come to terms with their new lives, forms the crux of this satisfying novel, which comes complete with inspiring recipes for Iranian specialties such as elephant ear pastries and, of course, pomegranate soup.
As always, you don't have to take my word on this, instead you can browse a substantial excerpt for yourself (much of which is exclusive to BookBrowse).
Marsha is also part of BookBrowse's Invite The Author program, and very happy to talk to BookBrowse members and their book clubs - contact her at www.bookbrowse.com/invite
This review was originally published in August 2005, and has been updated for the September 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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