Member Reviews

This was an interesting book, opening the door to a culture that I am not as familiar with - the descriptions were vivid. It had dual timeline, but personally one fell flat for most of it. It was an emotional book, frustrating at times. Felt pretty realistic

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The bones of this book are really good - a great historical fiction about a woman living in 1920s India and rebelling against the standards of society. Bindu was a fantastic character that you really felt for and wanted to learn more about - I found myself rooting for her happy ending by 25% of the way in. The best parts of this book took place in the past and I looked forward to coming back to this section.

Flashing forward to meet Eve in the 1990s was not as exciting and honestly felt unneeded (we figure out what the ties are between the two by the end of the book if you couldn't figure it out by the synopsis, but it felt like we could have found out a different way to do so). Still, overall this section kept me slightly interested and wanting to figure out where Eve's story would leave.

The worst parts of this book that knocked it down to a 2.5 or a 3 were the editing, and the amount of times we had to watch verbal abuse be excused (I know why and this was probably a realistic depiction of the time, but it just made me so angry and I'll explain more in a second).

Let's start with the editing - Renita D'Silva had a great story in her head, and you could tell that in writing it, she just wrote whatever came to mind without proof reading (which is normal). She also probably wanted to drive home the point that Bindu was a very headstrong, lucky girl who only liked Guru as a companion while skipping school and that he had a temper and was spoiled. Because this is repeated SEVERAL times. When a good editor is at play, they will see these repeats and make sure that the number of times we hear about Guru and Bindu's bargain before marriage is only twice rather than the 20 times we ended up getting in this draft. So many sentences and concepts were repeated over and over, and at times it truly made me want to put down the book.

The second thing that made me want to put down this novel was how Guru's verbal abuse was downplayed so much by those around Bindu. Now once again, I know that this probably made sense for the time, but when her grandma/Adji was excusing it and telling Bindu to have compassion for him? I was tired of it! Adji knows how much Bindu wanted to be self-sufficient and also knew her time was probably coming to an end, so she should have told Bindu to leave him. I know, this isn't my story and I can't decide how things play out but GAH!!! IT WAS SO ANNOYING!!! And then Guru feeling sorry for himself at the end made me roll my eyes - this was your fault and you should have faced even worse consequences!!

Once again - the story was probably accurate to the time period, it was just a super frustrating read at times. I'm giving it a 3 because I enjoyed it overall, but this is not my top pick.

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“The Spice Maker’s Secret” written by Renita D’Silva follows a dual timeline- one in Suryanagar, India in the 1930s featuring Bindu’s girlhood to motherhood and in England in 1980 following Eve, a woman who has just tragically lost her family. Both timelines come together beautifully to tell a wonderful story about mothers and daughters, as well as life in Pre-Independent India.

Bindu lives with her grandmother, Ajii, in a poor village in India. They survive by cooking for the landlord's special dinner parties and by making spices and healing in the village. Bindu is very smart and dreams of becoming a doctor. She goes to the mission school where she earns a scholarship to further her education, but when the time comes to sign for her scholarship, she has to turn it down as her grandmother is very ill and she can't leave her alone. She doesn't want to get married or ever depend on a man, but to help Ajii, she ends up marrying the Landlord's son who has desired her for years, promising her she will get care from the English doctor. She is trapped in a marriage that goes against all her values and is not happy being kept as a virtual prisoner. She begins writing to a magazine editor she met at one of her husband's parties about spices and recipes and he prints what she writes. This enrages her husband even more and he leaves her to give birth to their child alone. In the second timeline we meet Eve, a woman who was adopted from India by a publisher. She is now an author, but has stopped writing due to tragedy in her life. When her neighbour needs her help, she begins to come out of her shell and starts to cook again, using a cookbook from her mother that her adopted father gave her. The cookbook is the key to her past, and slowly she realizes that she needs to unlock the secrets to learn about her roots and her mother.

Bindu is a strong woman who is stubborn, resilient, intelligent, courageous, assertive and tenacious. She is very high achieving and feels things deeply, needing time alone or with someone she can talk to. She is a beautiful woman and that causes issues with the males in the story harassing her and the women disliking her and saying terrible things about her. They make judgements based on her looks rather than her actions. Everyone in the village is trapped in poverty and at the mercy of the Landlord. Guru, the landlord's son, was one that I has mixed feelings about. He felt that he was a prisoner of his father and he fell in love with Bindu. She was the only one to make him laugh and question him. When she eventually agrees to marry him, he is very happy, but quickly begins to act like his father and treat Bindu as if she is beneath him and that she is his property. Ajii was a wonderful character. She loved Bindu with all her heart and wanted her to have a wonderful life. In the future storyline, I felt for Eve. She had suffered so much that I was happy to see her begin to come out of her shell and try to learn about her past. This was a wonderful story where I learned some things about the life and culture in India in the 1930s. Some of the themes in this book are: domination and control of women, class structure, poverty, sacrifices, love, friendship, prejudice, dreams, mother/daughter relationships, grief, and the power of education. I recommend this Historical Fiction book to those who want to know more about India during this time and those who love stories about adoption, family relationships and following your dreams.

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This novel is ideal for readers who enjoyed the Henna Artist and the other books in that series. This is a compelling story about two women in the same family. Their trials and tribulations will engage readers and the common thread of shared ancestral recipes connecting generations is profound and moving.

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Renita D’Silva is an author who never disappoints. Her latest book is a sweeping novel of love, loss, struggle, betrayal, making the most of the hand that you’re dealt in life and learning that doing good for others is ultimately the quickest path to our own healing.

The story is told in a dual timeline, through the eyes of Bindu and Eve. The reader realizes that there’s obviously a connection between the two, but what that is, will only become apparent much later in the book.

At the start of the book, in a village in Suryanagar, India, Bindu lives a simple life in a hut with her beloved Ajjii, her grandmother. Their lives are not easy, governed by a cruel and callous landlord, the villagers struggle to eke out a living. They depend on each other to get by – bartering and exchanging their goods and services. But as with all those who live in close quarters and in dire circumstances, there is also plenty of gossip, much of which is mean-spirited, and a lot of this is directed at Bindu.

From a young age, Bindu learns all about spices and their uses – both for cooking and for various other things. Her Ajjii is an excellent cook and they are lucky that the landlord often hires her services when he entertains and has parties at his lavish home.

Bindu is bright and is offered an opportunity to go to a school nearby, started by the nuns. They foresee a great future for her, and if there’s one thing that Bindu craves for her future, it’s independence: a life away from the village and the way it ties her down. There are so many rules and too many people watching her all the time, dictating how she should live her life.

She’s surprised to discover that the only person who actually listens to her and understands how stifled she feels is Guru, the landlord’s son! They start to meet in secret, and they share how they both wish their lives could be different.

Suffice to say .. and without giving too much away … their dreams don’t go as planned. The strict system and structures of India at that time ensure that things are a certain way and that no matter how much Bindu might want them to change, there’s little chance of that happening. The devastation and havoc that are wreaked on her life become practically unbearable.

For every few chapters that tell Bindu’s story of her life in India – starting in the mid-1920’s, through to the late 1930’s – we get a chapter about Eve that takes place in London in 1980. Eve’s chapters are completely heartbreaking. In fact, I can just picture the author writing these with tears in her eyes, or even streaming down her face. It would be impossible to create such heartfelt, emotive words, without the deep feeling that would undoubtedly accompany them.

Eve has suffered a devastating loss and can’t seem to find her way back to any semblance of a ‘normal’ life. She had always toyed with the idea of visiting India to discover her roots, passed down to her by her adopted father, who had given her a recipe book of Indian recipes, said to be from her mother. But this now seems an impossible, far-off dream. She needs a catalyst to ground her back in the present and propel her forward. She cannot begin to imagine the future that awaits her.

This is a gorgeous book! The descriptions of rural Indian life are so detailed that the reader is truly transported to a place where you can almost smell the spices, and feel like you’re walking alongside Bindu on her journey.

Thank you to Renita D’Silva for opening up new worlds to your readers. We travel across time and space and beyond our imaginations, thanks to authors like you.

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There are many things I loved about The Spice Maker's Secret by Renita D'Silva. Having lived in India for four years, back in the 1980's, it is a place near and dear to my heart. The descriptions of foods and smells made my mouth water and my imagination soar. The book is descriptive of a past era in India's history, and in many ways, bought that time to life for me.

Bindu is a beautiful, smart, and determined girl in a poor village, being raised by her grandmother who is a wonderful cook. Her mother died at her birth, and her father shortly thereafter, but so loved is she by her grandmother, she doesn't miss her parents. But because of the two deaths at her birth, superstitious towns people have branded Bindu unlucky. As a young girl, Bindu befriends the rich landowner's son, Guru. As they grow older and Bindu's beauty is unmatched, Guru decides he wants Bindu as his wife, even though his parents are against it. Bindu wants to further her education, become a doctor, and help the people in her village. But when her grandmother's health declines, Bindu decides she must marry Guru in order to ensure the best care for her grandmother.

There is a more modern timeline story of Eve. It is a bit thin in the telling until the end of the book. Eventually, it is nicely tied into the Bindu storyline.

This was an enjoyable read, but I had a couple of issues that kept me from rating it higher. I felt the mid part of the book was one episode after another of Bindu railing at her circumstances and being angry at her husband. Considering the era it was, and the lack of rights women had then, I felt her constant adversarial stance became annoying, rather than admirable. I began to think she was so tiresome that I couldn't see what her husband saw in her. Another small, and maybe petty, complaint. Several times Bindu said she was searching for "agency", as in, becoming a whole person with rights. I have only heard this word used in that way the last few years, and certainly don't think it would have been in 1939, so it was jarring to me.

The overall end message of the book was uplifting and one of hope.

I appreciate being allowed to read an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest opinion. Thank you to NetGalley, Renita D'Silva, and Bookoutre. I would rate this read a 3.25 for me.

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This book provided a wonderfully fascinating look at Indian culture, specifically Indian food and women's rights. Bindu was a character that readers will both love and hate. At times she threw temper tantrums like a petulant child, at others she was successfully maneuvering for the betterment of the villagers. Eve's story was a beautiful one of love and grief and renewal.

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“You are lucky, my heart. My best girl”

This beautiful story by Renita Da Silva had me in tears from the exquisite beauty of the writing expressing the innermost emotions of the characters as we progress through this dual POV story set in two very different timelines. We meet Bindu, a young orphan in a dusty village, being raised by her grandmother who is a cook and spice maker. Bindu is forced into a situation due to her circumstances and desperate need to save the ones she loves despite having large dreams where she is able to provide her Ajji with all the comforts she deserves. Eve is barely existing, a ghost of her former self, yearning for days that have passed and left her behind, alone and shattered until she is forced out of her self-imposed exile to help a friend.

Renita’s prose is so eloquent that you feel the dusty roads of the village drifting up and catching in your throat, smell the spices that Bindu and her Ajji, mix, a powerful heady scent that almost leaves your mouth watering, which is accentuated by the recipes that are described and shared, needing to taste these morsels desperately. This story shows the power that a person can have and use in their own way to make a difference if they choose to. Even as they make the ultimate sacrifice of their own dreams, wishes, and hopes, as their heart is fractured in a dozen ways, their very essence stifled beyond measure. The relationship of Bindu with her Ajji was the most precious to me as her grandmother loved and cared for her, sheltering her against the distastefulness of village gossip and loving her beyond measure, in the way only a grandmother can. Leading me to give thanks once again for being blessed with my wonderful gran who is one of the most special people in my life.

Pick this up if you are a fan of beautiful, descriptive writing that tugs at your emotions at every possible moment. You won’t regret it.

Thank you to Netgalley and Bookouture for the opportunity to read this gorgeous tale.

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Reading this book was like being transported to India. The vibrant colours, the fragrant spices, even the dry landscape due to drought in contrast to the lush gardens of the landlord.

This story is about relationships.
Grandmother - granddaughter
Friends
Teachers (in this case nuns) - students
Husbands - Wives
Parents - Children
Social classes

It’s a harrowing reality of poverty & caste. And a story of a woman (girl, she was still very young) who was raised in poverty and thrown into a life of affluence and power.

This story is about heartbreaking difficult decisions. Sacrifice & love.

And trying to find your voice in 1939 India.

All these things - peppered with spice making, cooking, education and wisdom.

The Spice Maker’s Secret was such an enjoyable read.
Thank you NetGalley & Bookcouture for the chance to read this for my honest review, albeit a very late honest review. 🤦🏼‍♀️

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Thank you to Netgalley, the publishing house and the author for the opportunty to read a complimetary copy of this book in return for a review based upon my honest opinion.

This book transported me to India, you could almost smell the flowers, the spices and the see the wonders in your mind's eye. This book was a dual timeline story, told in two times, through the eyes of Bindu in 1924 and the eyes of Eve in 1980. I loved Bindu's story so much, she was strong and fiercely loyal. Her love for her family and her connection with receipes told so much about who she was. The historical information was so well written, the book flows throughout the ages seemlessly. Eve's story was equally heartbreaking and heartwarming.

This was such an enjoyabe read. I have enjoyed every book I have read by this author.

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1924- India
Bindu was born with a double crown on her head, her grandmother (Ajji), who has been raising her, says this makes her lucky. The villagers tend to disagree and consider her unlucky. She is the apple of her grandmother's eye and loves helping Ajji blend different spices to help the villagers ailments. She grows into a beautiful young woman, which causes the villagers to dislike her even more. She is also very smart and dreams of earning a scholarship and a new life for her and Ajji. Ajji's deteriorating health causes Bindu to give up her dream and instead enter into an unhappy marriage.
1980- England
Eve has not had the courage to leave her house since she tragically lost her husband and young daughter. When she is forced to face her past, she realizes how much she's been holding herself back. She decides to travel to India to learn more about where she came from.
I have been eagerly waiting for a new book by Renita D'Silva for years! I have enjoyed every one of her books. She has a way of transporting you into the story with her descriptions. All of the characters are well written, even the ones we want to hate. I did feel as if the first half of the book dragged a bit while the second half felt really rushed. Aside from that, I found it hard to put down and cannot wait for her next book!
Thank you to Netgalley and Bookouture for the ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review!

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Thank you to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this novel before publication.
A story of two women, woven through time and continents, experiencing their individual traumas, that truly evokes the scent of spices and Indian cookery. This is a beautifully, evocative novel.
My only reason for four stars is that Eve’s part of the story, particularly earlier in the novel, is written as very short chapters, interspersed with Bindu’s. Although the connection between the two women becomes apparent early on, it feels one knows so little of Eve’s life. Perhaps a slightly longer novel would have been worth it to get to know her better?
Having not previously read any of Renita D’Silva’s books previously, I would happily read more of her work, however. The writing beautifully creates the scenes of the protagonists’ lives.

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Wow such a sweet book. It makes me want to travel to India. Ended up googling the place and making my own research. Its well written and loved the descriptions of places. Reading this book, makes you understand what sacrifice and resilience is. We tend to forget these in today's society.

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Immersive, engrossing and an enthralling read, the Spice-maker's secret was an absolute treat to read.
Being from India and having lived in Uk, this multi-generational story about the lives of two women in pre-independent India and another one in a later period in UK hit different.
This one was relatable and heartbreaking and deeply moving. It also had heartfelt moments of pure joy and was uplifting indeed.
What I didn't like much is the portrayal of colonial India. It somehow felt like India written by a white person, with the catholic missionaries doing God's work and majority of the Indian characters being mostly submissive and petty and negative. One star less for that for this otherwise wonderful read!

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1939, India. Gently kissing her child, Bindu reaches into her pot of powder and touches her finger to the baby’s forehead. She tries to hide her tears behind her sari as she hands her daughter into a stranger’s arms, wondering if she will ever see her again…

A very emotional and heart breaking. Loved it!

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The Spice Maker's Secret presents the lives of two women one in India and the other one in London decades apart. The one thing in common they seem to have in common is food they both love to cook. Bindu loves to cook with her grandmother but in the same time she is ambitious and she wants to study and become a doctor. But life interferes and she gets married and she has to forget of all her dreams but it's not that easy when she feels trapped and alone. Eve gets through one of the most difficult losses in life but when her neighbour needs help she gives it and that changes many things and she ends up looking for her birth mother.
There are so many mentions of the amazing food they cook that you should never read this book hungry. All the fragrance from all the spices I could almost feel it and made me crave it.
Loved the book and the story of the two women. I really like Bindu's story from her childhood until she got married.

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Heartbreaking and fabulous!

A mesmerising tale that transports us between two women and two different times. Between Bindu in Suryanagar, India and Eva in London, from 1924 to 1980. Mother and daughter, lost to each other.
Loss and love in both lives. Going between Bindu’s story, her fight for the well being of her villagers, her husband, the traditions she doesn’t want to adhere to, her temperament and that of her husband’s, leading to tragedy.
And Eva, dealing with alienation and incredible loss.
When Eva finally takes the step of going to India, healing can begin. The daffodils can bloom.
Read and weep!

A Bookouture ARC via NetGalley.
Many thanks to the author and publisher.
(Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.)

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This book is a beautiful story of two women who love cooking and writing, and how their lives are connected. It was fascinating seeing the similarities and differences in their lives, they way they handled the hardships in their lives. It was both an uplifting and heartbreaking story, that had me tearing up. It felt very much like this story was the story of many real women in India's history.

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Genre/Tropes: historical fiction
CW/TW: traumatic childbirth, traumatic deaths (off page)

A touching story told in dual POV and timelines, about Bindu who grew up in a small Indian village in the 1930s, and her daughter Eve in the 1980s who has a collection of her mother’s recipes.

Bindu was orphaned, and raised by her doting grandmother. While villagers saw her as cursed, Ajji saw her as a blessing. She’d assist Ajji in making spices, meals, and remedies for the locals. Bindu excelled at the local school, and wanted to use her education to overcome their poverty. However Ajji became sick, and needed western medicine to save her. With no options, Bindu married the village’s landlord’s son to have access to that.

Bindu sacrificed her dreams to save Ajji, and went from being an outspoken person to one stifled by the patriarchal norms of that time. She tried to facilitate change through her husband, and was constantly denied.

I liked the depiction of village life, the surroundings, description of the mixing of spices, Bindu’s ambitious and defiant nature. I admire a FMC with such grit.

What I wished was a little different - Eve’s connection - or lack thereof - to Bindu. Granted I know Eve didn’t know her mother, but I was hoping for something a little ‘magical’ whenever Eve tried any of her recipes. What was Eve thinking and feeling as she mixed those spices? How did it help her with her grief? I guess I just needed to feel a little more of that from her.

I was enthralled by Bindu’s story, and I definitely recommend this inspirational read!

Thank you @bookouture for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Thank you so much for giving me early access to this title.
What a read, OMG! I don't even have the words to describe how this book made me feel. But if you(the author) gets to see this, THANK YOU SO MUCH for writing this book.

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