Saturday, April 24, 2010

Book Review: The Saffron Kitchen

I really wanted to love this book by Yasmin Crowther. It has one of those book jackets that is so terribly appealing, especially in the way it feels. Yes, I really wanted to love this book. I love the word "saffron."

But I just couldn't love it. There was something not quite right in the telling of the story. For one, the POV changed not chapter by chapter, which I can deal with, but by sections within chapters. Unmarked sections that made me say, "Wait, who? Huh?" Add that in with occasional flashbacks, and the effect was perplexing and jarring.

The story itself lacked deep feeling. I never connected at any level—as a woman, daughter, wife, or mother—with any of the characters. There is Maryam, an Iranian woman in her 60s who leaves her home of 40 years in England to go back to Iran and her childhood love, Ali. And there is Sara, her Anglo-Iranian daughter, who has a miscarriage in the opening scene which is apparently caused by Maryam. That whole scene was confusing to me and probably set the tone for the rest of the book. Sara is furious with her mother for causing her miscarriage, of course, and also for leaving her father and returning to Iran after a lifetime spent together.

As I said, the story for me lacked deep feeling, but it wasn't too deeply buried beneath the surface. Every now and then I could glimpse the makings of a really good story. This is Crowther's debut novel, and I have a feeling she'll be able to iron out the wrinkles in her next novel. All the pieces are there—she has good dialogue and nice writing—but just not quite put together.

Other Reviews of The Saffron Kitchen
Unified Theory of Nothing Much
Life Wordsmith
Reading Matters
Eclectic Closet
Red Room Library


Laura said...

Hmmm. I'm so glad you reviewed this book. I have it, but have yet to read it (I bought it because the title and cover looked good!). It's nice to have a bit of a "heads up!" for navigating tricky first novels.

Lisa said...

I'm sorry the book didn't deliver for you. I felt that way recently when I red a book called The Summer Kitchen. It was always on the verge, but never really gave me the depth I was hoping for.

Anonymous said...

I read this book recently and found it very moving, permeated with a sense of longing for something left behind, something without which each character felt incomplete. Maryam has left her love and her homeland, and although she makes a life, and has a child, there is a sadness, an emptiness at her core. Sara is aware of this throughout her childhood at a subliminal level, and is left empty herself after a miscarriage caused by an eruption of anger by her mother stemming directly from the horrific events which forced her to leave everything she loved many years before. The POVs do change constantly but the voices are different: I always knew who was speaking, and it was moving to see flashes of Maryam's voice in her daughter. It is a book about family bonds, but more about the importance of place in the formation of our characters. This is something that Khaled Hosseini conveys so painfully. The ripping of person from place causes wounds which heal only on the surface.