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Chitra Benerjee Divakaruni
The Mistress of Spices

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For me this was a book of magical realism.  It's almost a fantasy book, but because it is set in modern-day California, I think magical realism describes it better. 

 

The blurb gives the name of Tilo to the Indian woman who is the main character and narrator but in fact she has had other names in her past.  By the time we meet up with her in California running a spice store she has already lived several different lives, which are explained to some extent.  There seems to be no mention of years passing, but you get the impression that she could have lived well past her natural span.  Why she is running a spice store and how she runs it comes from one of her past lives which gives a lot to the magical part of the genre I have placed this book in. 

 

As much as it seems to be about magic of the spices, it is also a commentary on every-day life and times in modern America.  The trials and tribulations, the pitfalls of life, the danger and cruelty that exist in society are all illustrated through different, predominantly Asian, characters and Tilo tries to help each and every one of them.  And then one day an American stranger walks into her shop and everything changes for her as a person.

 

This novel is something of a slow burner in some respects and yet it is enticing and draws the reader in bit by bit.  As is usual with a good read the last half of the book was something I found difficult to put down.  I kept thinking there was only one way this could end, that I really wanted it to end up differently to that and then it turned upside down and ended in another way altogether.

 

I really loved this book and am so pleased to have got the suggestion from BGO.  I do hope other will try it - especially if magical realism is something you like to take you out of this world but to leave you in it so that it kind of makes sense within you own personal belief system.

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Barblue, magical realism, spices and your comments have made this book too enticing to pass by so have ordered it from my library.  But must finish enjoying Crossing to Safety first. :)

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Thanks Grasshopper - I hope you enjoy it as much as me - always a worry when you champion a book I think.

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I was almost halfway through this one when I decided I'd better get going on Crossing to Safety instead. But as soon as I'm done with Stegner, I'm going right back to this one because I was really enjoying it.

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I remember enjoying this a lot when I read it.  I can also recommend Chitra Divakundri's Sister of My Heart which is a lovely read.

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Finished this one and also enjoyed it quite a lot. I thought the writing was perfect for the magical nature of the story. Tilo was a fascinating character, and I couldn't wait to see how things turned out for her. The inner struggles she went through with her opposing natures were very well done. I was never quite sure which would emerge and what the consequences would be. It was a lovely story and I'm very glad it was chosen for a BGO group read. Even though I've had it on my shelf for years, who knows if or when I would have read it otherwise.

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My introduction to the book was through the movie, which I enjoyed thoroughly. I didn't even realise at the time that the movie was based on a book, until by sheer chance I ran across a mention of it somewhere on line. This is yet another instance where you have to view the movie and the book as bearing only a passing resemblance to each other. So don't go watch the movie after reading the book expecting it to be the same or even similar. 

 

I loved the book, and have since bought several other books written by the author, but haven't had time to get to reading them yet. My buying tends to outstrip my reading by several degrees.

 

What really moved me about the book was the definition of love that it presents.

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My introduction to the book was through the movie, which I enjoyed thoroughly. I didn't even realise at the time that the movie was based on a book, until by sheer chance I ran across a mention of it somewhere on line. This is yet another instance where you have to view the movie and the book as bearing only a passing resemblance to each other. So don't go watch the movie after reading the book expecting it to be the same or even similar. 

 

I loved the book, and have since bought several other books written by the author, but haven't had time to get to reading them yet. My buying tends to outstrip my reading by several degrees.

 

What really moved me about the book was the definition of love that it presents.

 

I'll definitely have to get the movie, even if it's not the same, since you said you enjoyed it. I put a couple of her other books on my TBR list after reading this one.

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A book I hope to read this year and now the movie see

Edited by Clavain

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I'll definitely have to get the movie, even if it's not the same, since you said you enjoyed it. I put a couple of her other books on my TBR list after reading this one.

 

The movie is a really sweet love story - it has Aishwarya Rai as the lead. For obvious reasons certain complexities in the book are vastly simplified or ignored, but it stands well on its own two feet if you don't expect too much of it as someone who has already read the book. They did retain many of the magical elements though. In some ways the movie reminded me of the movie version of Chocalat (not the book).

 

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Thanks for the trailer, AvidReader. I will definitely look for the movie!

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Thanks for the trailer AR.  It looks as if they have made a reasonable job of the essence of the book but I'm not sure I want to see it yet, so soon after reading the book.

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Thanks for the trailer AR.  It looks as if they have made a reasonable job of the essence of the book but I'm not sure I want to see it yet, so soon after reading the book.

 

Yes I'm not sure I would have been as happy with the movie if I had read the book first. However not having any knowledge of the book I really enjoyed the movie (and this is coming from a person who isn't much into romance either in book or movie form). There were bits such as the bits with the bird that didn't make a whole lot of sense until I read the book and then I went 'ohhhhh so that is what that was about' and I almost think they could have left a few of those out of the movie (but then it would have been even less true to the book and fans of the book would have moaned). However with or without knowledge of the book, the movie is good. 

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I have just received the only print version of Mistress of Spices available through my local library, but it is only 95 pages long. It is a Macmillan Reader version "Retold by Anne Collins" and has copious notes and discussions for Learners of English, which are very useful.  I do wonder if I will be reading the same basic book as everyone else, is the original  really so short? It has the same cover as some advertised with the red band below.

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I have just received the only print version of Mistress of Spices available through my local library, but it is only 95 pages long. It is a Macmillan Reader version "Retold by Anne Collins" and has copious notes and discussions for Learners of English, which are very useful.  I do wonder if I will be reading the same basic book as everyone else, is the original  really so short? It has the same cover as some advertised with the red band below.

My hardback is 338 pages. I don't think 95 pages could be the whole book.

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My hardback is 338 pages. I don't think 95 pages could be the whole book.

Thank you, Kerry, I thought something was wrong, it couldn't be that short for a Group Read. Mind this one is rather fun, it has pictures in it as well. :) I shall have to order the real one, judging by everyone's comments it sounds worthwhile.

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Thank you, Kerry, I thought something was wrong, it couldn't be that short for a Group Read. Mind this one is rather fun, it has pictures in it as well. :) I shall have to order the real one, judging by everyone's comments it sounds worthwhile.

I wonder what it is that you have? Is it like a study guide?

Edited by Kerry

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Thank you, Kerry, I thought something was wrong, it couldn't be that short for a Group Read. Mind this one is rather fun, it has pictures in it as well. :) I shall have to order the real one, judging by everyone's comments it sounds worthwhile.

 

Sounds like you might have one that has been paraphrased for simple English.

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I wonder what it is that you have? Is it like a study guide?

 

 

Sounds like you might have one that has been paraphrased for simple English.

 

 

You are both right, yes it is A Macmillan Reader for learners of English and what confused me was that although it said 'retold' by Anne Collins, I misread that as applying to the explanations and study notes at the back and not as abridged or rewritten as I should have.  Also, seeing the same cover on google . Might hang on to it until I get the real one, the study guide questions look helpful. :)

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