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The Mistress Of Spices [Paperback]

Chitra Divakaruni
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
Price: 8.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

5 Feb 1998

Tilo, an immigrant from India, runs an Indian spice shop in Oakland, California. While she dispenses the classic ingredients for curries and kormas, she also helps her customers to gain a more precious commodity: whatever they most desire. For Tilo is a Mistress of Spices, a priestess of the secret, magical powers of spices.

Through those who visit and revisit her shop - Ahuja's wife, caught in an unhappy, abusive marriage; Jagjit, the victim of racist attacks at school; the noisy bougainvillaea girls, rejecting the strict upbringing of their tradition-bound Indian parents; Haroun who drives a taxi and dreams the American dream - we get a glimpse into the life of the local Indian expatriate community. To each Tilo dispenses wisdom and the appropriate spice: coriander for sight; turmeric to erase wrinkles; cinnamon for finding friends; fenugreek to make a rejected wife desirable again; chillies for the cleansing of evil. But when a lonely American comes into the store, a troubled Tilo cannot find the right spice, for he arouses in her a forbidden desire, and following her own desires will destroy her magical powers.

Compelling and lyrical, full of heady scents and with more than a touch of humour, this novel explores the clash between East and West even as it unveils the universal mysteries of the human heart.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New Ed edition (5 Feb 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 055299670X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552996709
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 345,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"For ARRANGED MARRIAGE, 'As irresistible as the impulse which leads her characters to surface to maturity, raising their heads above the floods of silver ignorance'" (New York Times Book Review)

Book Description

An exotic, magical novel by a young Indian immigrant to the US.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I've ever read 28 Aug 2003
By Purple
This is a must read for anyone with a love of beauty. The main character is a woman of wisdom and passion. Tilos' realtionship with the mysterious spices she sells is inspired and enlighting. While working in her spice shop in America she tries to help each customer by suppling them with the exact spice that will help them find a way through what ever difficulties they face. Tilo does this by having been trained to listern to the wisdom of the spices that whisper to her each day.
The book is written in a deceptivly simple style that allows the author to draw you in and give all the characters shape and substance.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What would you be willing to give up for love? 17 Sep 2006
The author's love for her characters (even just her walk-ons) is all over this book. The Main character, Tilo, the `Mistress', is a work of art in herself ... headstrong, bold, and caring she introduces us all to the magic of spices and made me wish for someone like her in everyone's life.

Spiced up by spin-off stories of her customers as well as by the stories of the spices themselves, this is a novel to be savoured.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reading this is a magical, sensual experience! 17 Oct 2001
By A Customer
One of the most wonderful books I have ever read. The language is beautifully evocative. The story transports you into a magical fantasy world within a grim and gritty reality. This is a modern myth in the making. The author has created an oasis of sensual spices that you can practically smell and taste and touch. I literally got lost in this book, I was so immersed in its colour and creativity. Every time I get disillusioned with life, I escape into this warm, cosy haven of a book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promising but disappointing 16 Jan 2000
By A Customer
This book seems so promising and enticing yet ultimately the author fails to deliver. Somewhere half-way through,the magic fades,the Indian woman in America fails to convince us of her Indianness and the fantasy she weaves so well in the beginning begins to pall. But most irritating of all the dialogue does not ring true. The constant use of the present continuous tense in the book by Indians who are not 'Americanised' is extremely irritating. What a shame - because the story idea was a wonderful one.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A recommended real magical read 9 Feb 2004
Really, one of the best books i have ever read. Tells and learns you all about the spices, really intriguing, and so very well written. A very knowledgable and clever author, I look forward to reading her other books.
One can almost smell the spices! A real magical read. Highly recommended.
W Edwards, Riyadh.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exotic & mysterious 2 Mar 2007
There are books that, although nothing much happens, they still give the impression of many things bubbling under the surface - this is one of them. Not dissimilar to Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic, this is a story of the magic in the mundane, only in this case, rather than trying to fit in and be "normal", the narrator tries desperately to hang onto her mystery and magic, all the while battling her own desires in order to remain a Mistress of Spices. It's a voyage of self-discovery, of living in a foreign land and trying to maintain the elements of home in a new country. It's also, ultimately, a story of hope - that perhaps a woman really can have it all if she dares.

The style is at once flowing and jarring; a mix of flowing thought and halting speech that feels both familiar and foreign - a novel of extreme contrasts. The characters are fragile and all too human, afraid of losing their roots, but hoping for a better life in America than they had in India. There's something absolutely charming about this story that I can't quite put my finger on, almost as if one was under a spell while reading it that lingers after you've finished the last page. Absorbing, exotic and mysterious.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly disappointing 28 Jan 2000
By L-Y-H
This is a book which had me totally absorbed with it's magic and intrigue at the very beginning, but which then proceeded to totally destroy this all in the last part of the story. It is so disappointing as the end is like a bad trashy blockbuster - cheesy, a complete cop-out and doesn't fit the rest of the book at all. I felt as if I had totally wasted all those hours reading it. Don't bother!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes you want to take a trip to India 4 Jun 2008
I did it the wrong way round and watch the movie first and then started reading the book. The book however stands on it's own. The descriptions given makes you really feel you are their in part of the book. It sets your mind a float on so much possibilities out there. I really good read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars THE MISTRESS OF SPICES by Chitra Diyakaruni
i saw a film about a spice shop on tv a few months ago,then saw a book about scices,this got me thinking so got on amason found it with no problem,orded it and few days laiter... Read more
Published 17 months ago by mrs daphne joy moyce
5.0 out of 5 stars mistress of spices
Book was in good condition. I needed it for book group and will not read it again after, so cheap was good.
Published 21 months ago by hrh
1.0 out of 5 stars Dreadful
I was really dissapointed with this book - it was so badly written in many respects. The use of punctuation was so bad. Read more
Published on 21 April 2010 by J. Walton
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts well, but the ending is disappointing
I was really excited by the start of this book. I love the idea of a little wizened old lady in a spice shop secretly helping out customers with the power of the spices, whilst... Read more
Published on 12 April 2010 by Jennifer Malsingh
1.0 out of 5 stars CONFUSING
the film adaptation is miles better - don't waste your money. I really wanted to like this in fact I endured 200 or so pages then had to give in, I couldn't face the last 50 or so... Read more
Published on 15 Dec 2007 by A. mott
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple, yet refreshingly different
I was merely curious when I purchased this book, and so my expectations were not that great. However, having started to read it, I soon began to feel that this was going to be... Read more
Published on 25 Jun 2007 by FAMOUS NAME
1.0 out of 5 stars Another food-and-mysticism mistake
We just read this for our book group and the verdict was fairly unanimous; it's poorly-crafted, with no real focus. Read more
Published on 7 May 2007 by Waterbaby
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