Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Someone recommended this to me as a good follow-up to Bitter Sweets, which I read a few weeks ago. It’s another immigrant story; Maryam moves from Iran to London as a young woman, marries an Englishman, and has a child. Eventually she feels an overwhelming urge to return to Iran to rediscover her girlhood and to reconnect with people she has lost.
Bitter Sweets was much more light-hearted than The Saffron Kitchen, which I thought was a bit overdone. Maryam is a drama queen, and takes herself very seriously. She is all scarves and jewelry and perfume and temper tantrums—I don’t usually like this kind of woman in real life, and I didn’t take to her in a book, either. At times the action is hard to follow. It shifts back and forth between third and first person, depending on who is narrating: Maryam, or her much more grounded daughter Sara. The story also shifts between the past and the present, and between London and Iran. It felt very choppy to me, like Crowther was too lazy to impose some kind of organizational structure on her work, and just wrote passages as they occurred to her.
Nevertheless, there were a lot of aspects of this book that I liked, including Maryam’s family dynamics, her interesting relationship with Fatima, a kind of nanny/housekeeper/mother figure, and an easy-to-grasp overview of Iranian politics in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Also the descriptions of the houses and the food, which everyone knows is why I really read these kinds of book.
(Book 4, 2010)