Review: The Saffron Kitchen

This really is a lovely book.  It’s a story so packed with emotion that it felt like it was going to burst at the seams.  Every glance had meaning, every spoken word was meticulously chosen.  At its core, it’s a heartbreaking journey.

The story revolves around Maryam Mazar; an exiled resident of the remote village of Mazareh, which is nestled in the hills of Iran.  Disowned by her father at the age of 16, Maryam was forced to begin a new life in London, which brought to her a sweet and mild-mannered English husband, and a bright and intelligent daughter.  Maryam lived her adult life in London, and was adored by her family.  Unfortunately, she always managed to keep her husband and daughter at arm’s length, as she consistently felt the pull from her homeland.  Her feelings of unworthiness surfaced as anger, which alienated her daughter and confused her husband.  She couldn’t stop herself; burying dark childhood memories can only work for so long.

In Iran, dishonoring your family, even by a misunderstanding, was enough for a father to banish a daughter.  At 16, Maryam was deeply in love with their family’s servant, and she was also determined to become a nurse.  Needless to say, in a culture of arranged marriages and quiet women, these desires flew in the face of Iranian tradition.  Her desires to choose her own path shattered the life she knew.

As Yasmin Crowther (author) walks you through Maryam’s memories, her relationship with her daughter, and her necessary return to the village of her childhood, you can’t help but feel great empathy.  Will Maryam turn away from her life in London to return to Mazareh?  Will she see her true love again?  And how will a traditional village treat a banished woman?  The story is complicated, and heartfelt at every turn.

Overall, what really struck me was the author’s talent for descriptions.  The pictures are painted by the author with great care, and the writing is nothing short of beautiful.  Colors and textures are laid out in extraordinary detail; you could see every moment unfold.

It’s a quiet book, full of a woman’s longing and memories.  Anyone who would like to see the hillsides of Iran through the eyes of someone who loves every square inch should give The Saffron Kitchen a try.  I’m glad I did!  3.5 stars.

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