Thursday, November 15, 2007

Yasmin Crowther/THE SAFFRON KITCHEN


When a young British woman (Sara) miscarries her baby following an unfortunate and preventable accident, her Iranian mother (Maryam), tormented by guilt, is driven back to Iran to unlock her history and the sources of her own anger and misfortune.

This is a book about how people who seem to be so close can be leading lives that barely intersect, and also about how tiny random intersections of lives can have huge and terrible ramifications. I found it very sad and more than a little thought-provoking. For me, the most powerful element was Maryam's marriage to Sara's father, Edward--although they have spent the last 35 years together and Edward loves Maryam fiercely, it is revealed that he knows almost nothing about her. It is a realistic look at the way people love and fail each other without even realizing it, and at how some of the problems you'll encounter in life are subtle and have no simple solutions.

I don't want to say too much and spoil the book, because I do think it is a good, thoughtful read. But it was a half-finished novel for me in a lot of ways, and could have used a lot of polishing. First, Crowther shamelessly rotates narrator--Sara's 1st person point of view, then Maryam's 1st person, then Maryam's 3rd person, then Sara's 3rd person, then Edward's 3rd, then Ali's 3rd, then Noruz's 3rd. That makes me a little cranky, since it seems to me like the author couldn't do the work of making a commitment to one voice. Second, at the beginning we're set up to see that Maryam's relationship with her sister Mara was exceptionally close and important to her--and then Mara never even comes into the story, not for a moment. I feel like there was a major narrative thread that was dropped there, and elsewhere, too. Finally--and this is petty--I hate when authors begin each chapter with epigraph-style poems or quotations. Sometimes it is acceptible in nonfiction, but in fiction, as one of my friends once pointed out to me (was it you, Rose? I feel like it was), if someone else's words say it better than you can, then maybe you shouldn't be saying it at all.

So... good story, but could have been much more carefully crafted.

2 comments:

Barrie said...

Thank you for this review. I think I'll read the book. I think it's interesting how you can live with people without really connecting. And how this ebbs and flows depending on where people are in life.

Ello said...

All the pov shifts would drive me batty.