Salt & Saffron: Kamila Shamsie – Where you came from and where you’re going

Salt and SaffronSalt and Saffron by Kamila Shamsie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aaliya is a global citizen of Pakistani origin. But a flirtatious conversation with a stranger on the plane sets her thinking about her roots and the people and stories that have led to her.

The Dard-e-dils, Aaliya’s family, trace their roots back to the Mughal era, through British occupation, down to the Partition that broke hearts & families and finally their current day status as Karachian elite. Aaliya skips between past and present as she grapples with the mysterious loss of a beloved cousin, the strange myth of the ‘not-quite-twins’ and the class snobbery that she derides in her family but is shocked to find even in her own self.

The story moves along through various family anecdotes, tragic & funny. These fit together as a jigsaw puzzle, coming together only in the end as Aaliya makes her peace with her identity, her place in the family and the man she may love. Shamsie’s writing carries a wry wit inconguously laced with touching vulnerability. This is what takes her books above the mundanity of everyday stories, into sheer poetry. I do think the ending is weaker than the rest of the book but perhaps, in a story of great drama, a nondescript ending is the right one.

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