Summary and book reviews of The Saffron Kitchen by Yasmin Crowther

The Saffron Kitchen

by Yasmin Crowther

The Saffron Kitchen
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  • First Published:
    Dec 2006, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2007, 272 pages

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Book Summary

A passionate and timely debut about mothers and daughters, roots and exile, from the streets of Iran to the suburbs of London

In what is certain to be one of the most talked-about fiction debuts of the year, Yasmin Crowther paints a magnificent portrait of betrayal and retribution set against a backdrop of Iran’s tumultuous history, dramatic landscapes, and cultural beauty. The story begins on a blustery day in London, when Maryam Mazar’s dark secrets and troubled past surface violently with tragic consequences for her pregnant daughter, Sara. Burdened by guilt, Maryam leaves her comfortable English home for the remote village in Iran where she was raised and disowned by her father. When Sara decides to follow her she learns the price that her mother had to pay for her freedom and of the love she left behind. Poetic, haunting, and brilliantly crafted, The Saffron Kitchen is sure to entrance fans of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake and Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club.

1. London

A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear;
Although I love you, you will have to leap;
Our dream of safety has to disappear.
—W. H. Auden

Strange not to know that you’re alive or even that you’re about to die. That’s what it must have been like for my unborn baby. I’d been kicked in the guts by my young cousin, as I hauled him back from trying to jump over the bridge’s railings into the cold green water rushing out to sea. My mother’s scream rang in my ears as she ran toward us and the world froze: the churn of the Thames at high tide, the rumble of going-home school traffic and the tremble of the bridge. In that moment, my baby started to die.

And then the world unfroze. The traffic rolled by as if nothing had happened, and my cousin, Saeed, and I clung together on the pavement. When my mother finally reached us, she hauled Saeed to his feet, shook him hard, ...

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Introduction
Born to an Iranian mother and British father, Yasmin Crowther makes a unique and impressive debut onto the literary scene with her remarkable novel about culture, family, and identity. The Saffron Kitchen is a poignant and timely story about one woman’s struggle to belong to more than one world and how that pull between identities affects a family for generations to come.

Richmond Hill in London is a far cry from where Maryam Mazar was born and raised, the little village of Mazareh in Iran, but this affluent suburb is where she has lived for more than forty years. She has what seems a good and comfortable life, with a devoted husband, Edward, and loving daughter, Sara. But when Maryam’s last living sister dies and ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The title of Crowther's first novel might lead prospective readers to believe that The Saffron Kitchen is the latest addition to that comforting sub-genre of "foodie-novels" that feed the mind and whet the appetite in equal measure by interspersing tasty recipes into the plot. This is not the case, in fact food takes a definite back seat to themes of culture, family and identity as we follow one woman's struggle to find happiness as she is pulled between two very different worlds.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews

Booklist - Donna Seaman

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

Kirkus

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.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. ..a wonderfully intricate debut novel. Crowther, ...powerfully depicts Maryam's wrenching romantic and nationalistic longings, exploring the potency of heritage and the pain of exile.

The Guardian, London

Absorbing family drama ... an unusual and satisfying read.

Daily Telegraph, London

The Saffron Kitchen marks Yasmin Crowther out as a novelist of exceptional honesty and grace.

Reader Reviews

T. Borgelin

I ate and drank in every aromatic
I ate and drank in every aromatic word. I was afraid to laugh for fear that I would soon cry and afraid to cry for fear that I would not be able to stop. I smelled the saffron and black tea and mint and sadness and bittersweet moments. I want to ...   Read More

Sheila Karron

Incredible read
I have about 40 pages left and I cannot put the book down. It has been a long time since I was so involved with a novel. I cried, I laughed , and I felt such emotion for each of the characters. The book gives such wonderful insight into the Iranain ...   Read More

Tara

is it me or the book???
English is my third language... but that has not prevent me from enjoying James Joyce, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison or H D Thoureau ... It has not prevented me from enjoying Anita Damant, Arundhiti Roy Khaled Hosseini or Elizabeth Gilbert... but, ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

A Short History of Iran
If your recollection of the recent history of Iran is a little rusty, this brief background should refresh your memory of the events that form the backdrop to Maryam's childhood:

Iran's 4,000 year history is summed up by Dr Saeed in The Saffron Kitchen. Referring to Iran before and after the 1979 revolution he says, "We were welcomed around the world for our oil, yes, but also for our culture, our civilization ..... Now a quarter century later, if you have an Iranian passport, people here, the authorities, think you're a ...

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