The Saffron Kitchen is a heart rending story replete with lovable characters. It is set in Iran and in England, both countries given descriptions at its best. England is beautiful with its lush surroundings; Iran is described in the colours of earth and saffron. Yasmin Crowther writes simply and honestly, never apologetic. The reader is left to deal with his or her own biases and stereotypes.
The bonds that tie mother and daughter, husband and wife are threatened when Maryam Mazar, Iranian by birth, is heartbroken and inconsolable when she is physically violent to a young nephew. In a while, we would see that this angry outburst is something that was borne in Maryam’s adolescence when her autocratic father had harmed her physically because of a night of “indiscretion” with the real love of her life, Ali. She was eventually disowned by her father and Ali brutally scarred and banished to a harsh life. Maryam, self-exiled in England met Sara’s father and married him but was continually haunted by her past.
The part that would make me cry is Sara’s realization that for the sake of her mother’s coming to terms with herself, she has to let her go and reunite with Ali in Iran and allow her to face the demons of her youth. Sara's father is tremendously hurt but gathers up the courage and the wisdom to let Maryam go. Sara herself is angry with what happened to her mother decades ago and would not impose more guilt on her.
This is one book that gives me the catharsis. It may allow one to delve into the difficulties of mixed marriages and might also bring up the issue of Muslim women’s rights in a patriarchal setting. Not unlike Maryam, many of us can be frustrated at times with the system, though, in reality, it is not as bad as thought, as most Muslim women can have security and serenity in the same set-up. The book may inspire debate, yet, what is vital for me is the characters’ love for each other; there was unhappiness but there were no forms of betrayal – just letting go; setting a loved one free no matter how it hurts.