The Saffron Kitchen

Written by Yasmin Crowther
Review by Viviane Crystal

“‘And what does my father believe?’ Ali frowned. ‘Tradition, I suppose.’ ‘In spite of all its blood and misery?… As if we’re trapped in the past and can’t think for ourselves.’” Maryam Mazar lashes out with a statement that will indirectly lead to her daughter Sara’s loss of a pregnancy. While a common enough climax in literary fiction, the historical and psychological origins behind this scene carry the poignant weight of this novel.

Maryam and Sara take the reader back to an Iranian small town, Mazareh, during its revolution, which culminates in the exile of the Shah and the takeover of Islamic fundamentalists. Harrowing interrogations, ruthless abuse of justice, and the transition to religious fanaticism infiltrate the dreams and choices of this typical Iranian family. Sara realizes what her mother has suffered and lost, which haunts her past and present life. While all the plot strands aren’t necessarily resolved, the historical realities threatening to destroy this brilliant and beautiful culture fail as these courageous characters face past demons with the strength and deep love of their Iranian identity. The Western mind cannot help but be brutally shocked at a father so indoctrinated in a particular faith and culture that he would irreparably be part of the forces which almost destroy his daughter. Despite the painful scenes, the processing of this reality is amazingly touching and unforgettable.

Maryam and Sara’s evolutions are riveting and potent. A true celebration of individual and collective freedom, this is a classic historical novel sure to win Yasmin Crowther multiple admirers.