Aishwarya Rai · American dream · book reviews · books · India · Mistress of Spices

Book Review: The Mistress of Spices:by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni


My mother & sister had been raving for weeks about a film called The Mistress of Spices, which I hadn’t been able to see, so when I came across this title on the library shelf, I grabbed it. Turns out I now have something to rave about myself!
Highly descriptive & elegant, the story of Tilo, the Mistress, and her many transformations, is touching. As Tilo changes the lives of those around her with the help of her spices, she also discovers the life & love she truly wants.

Tilo began life in India, an unwanted child who soon discovered she had special gifts: she could foretell when floods were coming, or find things that were lost. This power gave her family wealth, and fame, which proved to be their downfall, when she is stolen away by pirates. After a time of traveling with the pirates, and becoming their queen, she grows restless, and enters the sea, where the serpents tell her of an island where the Old Mother lives. They take her there, and she begins her training to become a Mistress. But this means she must give up all of her own desires and wishes, doing only what the spices command. Tilo says she can do this and is sent to a shop in San Francisco, to serve the community as the spices tell her.
Tilo loves the spices, and her patrons at the shop, yet is not quite able to follow the rules. As she tends to each person shopping in her small shop, we learn of their life: Haroun, who has come all the way from “India in search of the American dream, only to be working for an Indian nightmare;” a teenager trying desperately to fit in with his American peers; and a grandfather, struggling with his too-western grand-daughter. And Doug, the American man who brings to the surface all the desires our Mistress of Spices should not be having.
The unfolding of so many stories works well here, without conflict, and I was able to care for each character. I’d recommend this to all.

The Mistress of Spices:by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Published 1997 by Anchor

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The film, which was made in 2005, stars Aishwarya Rai, a former Miss World, and Dylan McDermott. The film while simple, is sensual & quite beautiful, and not just because Miss Rai is drop-dead gorgeous! Shot mostly inside a small spice shop, the open basket, barrels & jars of brightly colored spices & herbs are utterly enticing; you can almost smell the aromas in the air.
Most of the cast are more familiar to fans of Indian cinema, but all are wonderful. Dylan McDermott was perhaps the least interesting thing in this film.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and am happy to say that I feel the same about the movie.

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