‘The Mistress of Spices’ – The very title conjures up feelings of warmth, excitement and perhaps seduction? Spices are synonymous to South Asian food and food as we know forms an inherent part of any culture. If I call myself a lover of Indian fiction, it would be rather tragic if I failed to enlighten you about the wonders of this book!
When I first picked this book at my local library, I flipped through its pages and was enticed by the style of narration. Every chapter is dedicated to one spice and the storyline is interwoven with the healing benefits of each (or so I guessed in the 2 minutes that I examined the book). I was pleased to find out that my inference wasn’t too far from actuality.
Divakaruni is a fine writer and her words in this book form a soothing symphony. She tells us the story of Tilo, an immortal soul who is bestowed with powers that enable her to master the ancient art of spices. This translates into Tilo identifying ailments of those that approach her in her mystical spice shop and she ‘prescribes’ a particular spice or a combination of spices as healing agent(s). The attention to detail and amount of research behind the properties of each spice is evident in Divakaruni’s writing. The manner in which drab scientific information has been transcribed into an enchanting narrative reflects Divakaruni’s immense power over language and her ability to engage with her readers.
As Tilo’s healing powers become known, she is fondly referred to as ‘The Mistress of Spices’ and through the first half of the book we can see how passionate she is about her art or shall we say craft? We are then introduced to a handsome stranger who burns in Tilo a different kind of passion. Are these passions allowed to coexist? Will she have to choose between them?
I absolutely loved this book and wasn’t surprised when it was made into a film of the same name. Whilst the film captured the emotions well, the book stoked my imagination as the spices were brought to life by some very succinct personifications deployed by Divakaruni. The book makes for a wonderful read during a cold winter’s day when all you need is some sizzle and spice!