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The Saffron Kitchen, Yasmin Crowther.

March 24, 2016


The Saffron Kitchen, Yasmin Crowther.  London : Little, Brown, 2006.

5 stars

A moving novel about a Iranian mother and the secrets from her early life that she has not shared with her English-born daughter.

Like Sara in her book, Yasmin Crowther was born and raised in Great Britain by an Iranian mother who had come there in her twenties and married an Englishman.  Unlike Sara, she visited her mother’s homeland and knew it extensively.  In The Saffron Kitchen, she seeks to bridge the dividedness of being both Iranian and English which she and her mother shared.

Crower tells the story of Maryam and Sara with skill and compassion.  The lines of Matthew Arnold’s poem, “Dover Beach,” run through the book reflecting the idealism and resignation of its characters, and the admonition to be true to one’s self.  Varied characters include women like Maryam who find Iranian gender definitions oppressive and others who are able to find strength and grace with in them.  Male characters range from the harsh and narrow-minded to those who are unusually sensitive to the women they love.

Maryam had grown up in a priviledged family in Iran, spending summers in a remote mountain village.  When her father was humiliated by her actions as a teenager, he exiled her from the life she had known. After training as a nurse, she went to England, happily married, and had a daughter.  As Sara grew up, her mother seemed to be well assimilated, but Maryam remained subject to strange moods and angers. When an orphaned nephew joined the family, she falls apart, hurts other, and returns to Iran.  Her husband and her grown daughter, Sara, have no idea what lies behind her actions.  Sara must follow her mother to the mountain village of her childhood, before either can balance the meaning of the old and the new in their lives.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Saffron Kitchen and recommend it highly to other readers who care about complex stories of coming to terms with who we are.




One Comment leave one →
  1. March 24, 2016 8:28 pm

    This sounds interesting… I’d like to read more from Iran…

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