The Spice Maker’s Secret

by Chandra Sundeep
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Cover picture of The Spice Maker's Secret by Renita D'Silva

Renita D’Silva’s “The Spice Maker’s Secret” is a captivating multi-generation historical tale that unfolds across dual timelines (1930s and 1980) and two distinct settings (India and London), featuring two interesting female protagonists, Bindu and Eve. Love, ambition, poverty, challenging marriages, societal expectations, colonialism, and resilience are among the central themes explored in this narrative.

In the 1930s, Bindu, a spirited and independent young girl, finds herself navigating a harsh reality after losing her parents early in life. Raised by her Ajji, she dreams of escaping to the city and pursuing education but ends up marrying Guru, the son of a ruthless zamindar. Despite the luxurious life, Bindu feels increasingly isolated and unfulfilled. A chance encounter with a British journalist ignites a glimmer of hope, leading to a transformative exchange of letters that alters her trajectory.

In parallel, Eve, a London-based writer grappling with profound loss, embarks on a quest to uncover her Indian heritage following the tragic deaths of her husband and daughter. Adopted by a British father, Eve seeks connection with her biological family in India, embarking on a journey of self-discovery.

D’Silva’s writing captivates with its vivid imagery and descriptive prowess. Through intricate depictions of rural life and the British era in Colonial India, coupled with nuanced explorations of the rich-poor divide, interspersed with evocative vernacular references, D’Silva crafts an absorbing narrative.

Bindu’s character serves as the cornerstone of this narrative, and her development unfolds with admirable finesse. Enduring a life replete with challenges, Bindu emerges as a beacon of resilience and determination. The portrayal of her journey from a child to a woman wedded to the wealthiest family is skillfully shown, showcasing a transition marked by depth and emotions.

Ajji, Sunita, and Eve, the other central woman characters, are well-sketched, reflecting the social milieu of their respective eras and locale.

The pacing and repetition detract from the overall experience. The narrative could have been significantly shorter. Listening to the audiobook, which stretched over 13 hours, it felt as though 4-5 hours were dedicated to reiterating information already established early on. Repeated mentions of Bindu’s circumstances, dreams, aspirations, and struggles within an abusive marriage became redundant. Similarly, the depictions of poverty and the harsh realities of rural life were incessantly reiterated, diluting their impact.

The enigmatic connection between Eve and Bindu adds an interesting layer to the narrative, infusing the story with an intriguing mystique. I found the conclusion to be the most captivating aspect of the tale.

As an own-voice reader, I was miffed with the hotchpotch of cultural references. However, the author clarifies that these amalgamations are deliberate creative liberties she has taken.

The audiobook narrated by Nikki Patel is more suited for American readers. Indian listeners will find the accent and mispronunciation of words quite bothersome. E.g. Bindu is pronounced as BinDoo, sambhar is sum-baar!

The Spice Maker’s Secret has a lot of potential and is a promising tale of resilience and identity. It could benefit from tighter editing to refine its execution and amplify its impact.

I received an ARC from NetGalley and Bolinda Audio. This review reflects my honest and voluntary opinion.

Wordsopedia Rating 3/5

 

Title: The Spice Maker’s Secret Author: Renita D’Silva
Publisher: Bolinda Audio Publication date: Feb 1, 2024
Genre: Fiction—Historical Format: AudioBook
ISBN: 9781038664273 No. of Hours: 13 Hours, 36 Minutes

Buy your copy here on Amazon

About the Author

Renita D’ Silva loves stories, both reading and creating them. Her short stories have been published in ‘ The View from Here’, ‘ Bartleby Snopes’, ‘ this zine’, ‘ Platinum Page’, ‘ Paragraph Planet’ among others and have been nominated for the ‘ Pushcart’ prize and the ‘ Best of the Net’ anthology.

 

This is my pick for #readingwithmuffychallenge for the prompt story about a woman, by a woman.

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1 comment

Atish March 26, 2024 - 12:49 pm

When I saw the title… I thought it was about food and recipe… my bad. OVerall, nice review. Will try to read it.

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