Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran tells the story of Marjan, Bahar and Layla; three Iranian sisters beginning a new life in Ballinacroagh, a small Irish village at the foot of Croagh Patrick. The novel begins with the final preparations for the opening of The Babylonian Cafe, their new venture. Though on their first day, they only have one customer, the exotic smells drifting from this little eatery have a disturbing yet wonderful effect on the sleepy village.
Woven through this poignant tale is the more violent story of their flight from their homeland during the revolution of 1979. These two stories produce much for the sensitive reader to consider, particularly about race, religion and fear. Throughout all, the reader is encouraged to shed prejudice and taste kindness.
I enjoyed every minute of this book and particularly savoured the Persian recipes which appear at the start of each chapter and were made as that chapter unfolded. Mehran truly mixed up a masterpiece.
As much as I loved Pomegranate Soup, I was disappointed with its sequel, Rosewater and Soda Bread, it was rather like being served unsalted porridge after Baklava. There were no recipes in the book and thus that which had made the first so distinctive, and charming, was missing. Mehran attempted to tackle the issue of abortion, but I think she presented both sides of the debate poorly. Sanctity of Life was presented shallowly and she failed to produce sympathy with the young woman concerned (although perhaps I don't understand the nature of Irish catholicism in the 1980s well enough). Prejudice was a major theme, again, but I felt like she was flogging a dead horse. Relationships, particularly romantic ones, was another flavour in the book but she had nothing significant to say, except that there is no particular wisdom anyone can give about anything. To be fair, in this respect, she is simply a product of our age.
The redeeming feature of this book was the lovely Estelle Delmonico who, if one could ever jump into a book, I would love to visit!