Member Reviews

I absolutely adore this heartwarming story. India, with its vast diversity and multitude of languages, has always been a land of inspiration. From the teachings of ancient sages to the heroic tales of freedom fighters, its history is filled with stories of courage and determination. Bindu, too, drew strength from this heritage, passing it on to her child through her gentle kiss. In a world that often feels chaotic and uncertain, these small rituals remind us of the power of love and connection. They serve as a reminder that even in the midst of life's challenges, there is a source of strength and comfort within the bonds of family.

Thank you, NetGalley and Publisher!

Was this review helpful?

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…

1990, London. Eve’s most treasured gift from her beloved adopted father was a hand-written, Indian recipe book. Grieving his death, she begins to grind and mix the spices penned so carefully in the recipes. Do the crumbling pages in this book hold the key to uncovering the secrets of her past?

Beautifully written, D'Silva transports you to India with her vivid and compelling words. This is a very heartfelt story of family and a very powerful commentary on the social dynamics that we often associate with other cultures. Have your tissues ready!

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advanced digital reader's copy (ARC) in exchange for an honest review!

Was this review helpful?

What an interesting story!
The book is a duel timeline story.,
Main character, Bindu, has to overcome many adversities in 1930 India.
Main character, Eve, does not have a easy life in 1980 London.
A truly beautiful written story.
Many thanks to NetGalley, Bookouture and the author for the opportunity to read this book for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Was this review helpful?

This is a beautiful coming-of-age novel about a stubborn and fearless young woman who selflessly puts others before her own needs. The author does an excellent job detailing the story allowing progression of the main characters growth and those around her. Told during the years prior to and during India's independence, it is a tale about socioeconomic differences, feminist ideology in a patriarchal society, with an unfortunate ending (but a hopeful epilogue!).

It is a great historical fiction for those interested in a different culture or south asian literature and the themes mentioned above. I was engaged with the story development and thought mirroring the theme of loss (whether it is for freedom or family) between the characters was done well.

I enjoy books with alternating chapters between characters however at first, I was not sure about the progression of Eve's storyline but it wrapped up really nicely.

Overall, I recommend the book.

Was this review helpful?

I enjoyed the sweet romance that developed in an Indian village between Bindu, the poor teenage tenant of a rich landowner, and Guru, the landowner's young son. That Guru did not let Bindu's low status prevent him from wooing her was an interesting part of the plot.

Howevder, when society's strict rules and the landowner's own restrictions put Bindu, his son's new young wife, in a golden cage, so to speak, Bindu rebels in the only way she can, convincing her wealthy husband to allow her to continue making her spice pastes and to cook, but also secretly submitting her poetry and stories to a publication run by a handsome British journalist. Bindu is not allowed to read magazines or discuss politics with any of the Indian or British guests at the many parties the landowner throws.

The tragedy of Bindu and Guru's ill fated marriage takes up most of the rest of the novel. The story switches from unhappy Bindu in 1930s India to Eve, a young woman living in1980s London. The novel reveals the connection between the two women living in different historical periods in a dramatic fashion.

Heartrending, the novel first shows the restricted lives of women, poor and wealthy alike, in pre-Independence India, and focuses on Bindu, one woman who chafes at these rules and the price she pays for her independent spirit.

The author has given a startlingly clear depiction of both the rich and green land of India and the tropical surroundings, the relationship between those in poverty and those of wealth, and the role of women in 1930s India.

I heartily recommend this historical novel for those wanting to know more about the social and working life and the culture and traditions of people in this era in India.

Was this review helpful?

Weaving two storylines with decades between them we have seen here story of a young girl who dreams of being free from a life of poverty and a woman who finds herself in the pain of losing her husband and daughter. Two paths. Two countries. One invisible thread.

I’ve been reading D’Silva since 2014 with the Stolen Girl while I was holding my 1 yr old son in my arms. People who have been around my page for the past few years know my story with becoming a mother and having this family wasn’t an easy one.. and I think having finished with IVF and knowing I had 3 little ones to love on, made me pick up The Stolen Daughter.

Does it make sense to read about the loss (and sound) of a child when I was just coming to terms with the amount of losses I’ve dealt with… nope… it didn’t. But for me, in my own mind, it did.

Reading and the books that give me empathy are ones that have threads of my own life mirrored back. I am not South Asian. Nor have I adopted a child. But I am a mother and I have had much loss. And so those threads are what I gravitate to when I’m trying to find rich novels full of empathy and compassion.

So while this novel comes out at the start of January… it feels like the perfect way to start my 2024. With an author who I’ve watched grow with her voice over the past 10 years. I don’t know her, she doesn’t know me. But the words that author Renita D’Silva wrote 10 years ago, are full of culturally emotive ones. Connected by two things only: motherhood and love

Was this review helpful?

D’Silva gracefully weaves the dual timelines and locales of the protagonists Bindu and Eve. A lyrical work of historical fiction that immerses you in family, traditions and the power of connection. Unfortunately I wasn’t hooked like I’d hoped I would be based on the title and description. Yes, it was enjoyable, not gripping though.

Was this review helpful?

This is a wonderful evocative book written in two timelines. In London in 1990 we meet Eve who lost her parents then her husband and child in the last year, she is struggling with life until Maya needs her. In Suryanagar, India in the 1930s we follow Bindu through her childhood through to her marriage and the birth of her child. Both timelines were equally good although there were significantly more pages dedicated to Bindu’s story. Beautifully written and fantastically descriptive this was an easy and very enjoyable read.

Briefly, Bindu is very beautiful and also very clever. She lives with her grandmother and helps her with cooking for others, in particular the local landlord. They are poor, the sort of poor that it’s hard to imagine, not enough to eat and not enough water to drink much of the time. Bindu is being taught by nuns at their school and she is expected to pass her matriculation exams and win a scholarship but she catches the eye of the landlord’s son, Guru, and when her grandmother falls seriously ill her only way of getting her the help she needs is to agree to Guru’s proposal.

Well written characters, particularly Bindu, who was a strong woman who wanted her independence in a country where women were treated as second class citizens. However, she didn’t really go the right way about it, she seemed angry a lot and took pleasure in winding up her husband, a man who clearly loved her but was a product of his upbringing. I loved all the cookery in the book, I swear I could taste some of those meals and I was hoping to find some recipes at the end of the book! There was a lot of sadness and heartbreak in the book but also love and hope. A very enjoyable read.

Was this review helpful?

I enjoyed reading The Spice Maker's Secret and immersing myself in the well described world of Bindu. I liked how Bindu's story took centerstage and I as the reader was able to understand her as well as the other characters in her story.

Thank you to Netgalley and Bookouture for the e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

This is the first book of Renita's that I have read. I enjoyed it immensely and was hugely immersed in Bindu's story. Evocative imagery and engaging characters, I flew through this book. Will definitely recommend and I've already purchased the first two books in Renita's Daughters of India series.

Was this review helpful?

Reinta D’Silvia has written a classic tale of a young women who comes from a very poor family in India who has to make hard sacrifices to save herself and her family.

As Bindu is born her mother dies, and she is thought to be a symbol of bad luck. She is raised in a village in a one room hut by Ajji who is her grandmother and provider. Bindu has many gifts. Among them are her fierce determination, her intelligence, and her cooking skills that she acquires in the kitchen hut with her grandmother who cooks for the big landowner and others.

Bindu marries and gives up on her dreams of going on with her education. Feeling very trapped she was not able to convince her husband to allow her more freedom to contribute to his world and be more than just a conventional princess in fine clothes and jewelry. Behind her husband’s back she starts to write recipes and contribute to a magazine that is run by a Brit. This of course comes to a firing end, and she births her child alone, and without giving too much away, this is a pivotal moment.

At alternating chapters we meet Eve who lives in London, and has just experienced a deep tragedy that has forced her to retreat from daily life. As her next door neighbor needs her help for an emergency, Eve begins to come out of her shell and we make a connection with a treasure gift of an Indian cookbook that was given to her by her stepfather. This cookbook is a key to her past, and as she begins to feel stronger, she decides she must unlock its secrets.

I think the story was interesting, but as a reader I found it very repetitive, and I got bored. Even though the chapters are short, the story dragged and I just wasn’t motivated to race to the end.

I certainly wasn’t hooked, and I am an avid reader. The overall story is thin, and could have been told shorter but with a few more twists and turns, as the struggles seemed too trite and have been rehashed in many other books.

Was this review helpful?

I was born in India and I love a historical book about India to learn more of the history. This reminded me of Alka Joshi's series and I really enjoyed that. It's a great storyline.

Was this review helpful?

The Spice Maker's Secret by Renita D'Silva is a captivating journey through time and culture, seamlessly intertwining the lives of two women, Bindu and Eve, against the backdrop of 1939 India and 1990s London. Through exquisite storytelling, D'Silva transports readers to the vibrant landscapes of rural India, where the aroma of spices, the swish of saris, and the struggles of a resilient young woman named Bindu come to life. The novel brilliantly critiques societal norms, exploring themes of women's subjugation, poverty, sacrifice, and the indomitable spirit of its characters. As the narrative unfolds in London with Eve's search for her roots, the crumbling pages of an Indian recipe book serve as a gateway to uncovering secrets. With evocative prose and a rich thematic tapestry, The Spice Maker's Secret is a heartwarming and immersive family saga that beautifully weaves together love, loss, rebellion, and sacrifice across generations and continents. Renita D'Silva's ability to make the sights and sounds burst into life ensures that this novel is a poignant exploration of the human spirit, transcending genres and leaving an indelible mark on the reader.

Was this review helpful?

Book Review:
The Spice Maker's Secret by Renite D'Silva
Published by Bookouture 3 Jan 2024

Taking place in the vastly different settings of India in 1939 and London in 1990, we meet two main characters and discover their stories.
In India, Bindu is trapped in an unhappy marriage and dreams of escaping. In London, Eve is unhappily alone.

It's been a long while since I've read one of Renita's books, and whilst not a genre that typically reach for, her writing is so heartwarming that I was delighted to read this new one. Bindu's and Eve's tales come from different places, and although there is tragedy in both, it's told with delicacy. The depth of the author's immersive writing ensures the sights and sounds of both women's worlds burst into life from the pages.
I believe this is a book that most readers, of any genre, would enjoy.
*I received an eARC from the publisher via Netgalley. This is my unbiased review.
#BookReview #RenitaDSilva #TheSpiceMakersSecret #Bookouture #Netgalley

Was this review helpful?

The Spice Maker's Secret was a tug of war on my whole sense of self. It is the journey of two women from different times and places in the 1900's, who all though meet on only for the briefest of moments had a tremendous impact on each others lives. It is an adventure through their struggles and sadness, triumphs and hope, self-discovery and self-sabotage. The obstacles that these women endure, and how they learn, heal and grow from their adversity is both heart breaking and warming. This beautifully written story envelopes the reader in the sights and smells that gives it an exquisite realism to the narrative. I do not want to give any spoilers as I feel that the discovery is part of transformation the reader will go through with this novel, but what will say is it will change you.
I would recommend this to readers who enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. The Spice Maker's Secret is food for the soul.

Was this review helpful?

The Spice Maker's Daughter by Renita D' Silva

A joy of a read that takes you through different timelines , linked characters , and from exotic India to London.
The main character in India is Hindu and we see things through her eyes.
Moving on and in London we are with Eve .
I loved the India setting where by the authors description we are transported to the heat , the sights and the food to a degree that you can almost feel you are there yourself.I
A wonderful , evocative , read.

Was this review helpful?

“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 Bindu’s daughter, Eve. Both timelines come together to form a cohesive story portraying a myriad of themes in pre and post-independence in Indian society.

The author uses vivid imagery to appeal to the reader’s senses to encapsulate the aromas of the ginger,turmeric and chilli and the scenery of rural India. The author has utilized third person point of view to illustrate this tragic and heartbreaking story of women, motherhood and the fight for survival.

In the 1930s, Bindu is an orphan raised by her Ajji in poverty along with the other villagers, all tenants of the landlord, the only person who can live lusciously as he owns the land they all live on and are thus indebted to him. Those living in poverty exchange their services or goods to each other in order to survive. Bindu’s Ajji is the local chef who is deemed the best cook in the village and Bindu learns all she knows from her, together they concoct spice mixes and various dishes for their livelihood, cooking is the one avenue of peace for Bindu, which was soon taken away from her when she was married.

Bindu is a strong female main character who is stubborn, resilient, intelligent, courageous, assertive and tenacious and these traits are undoubtedly seen throughout the novel as the story progressed. As she transforms from girlhood to a teenager, Bindu flourishes into a pretty, intelligent young woman who becomes the scapegoat for the village women to project their miseries onto even more than when she was just a girl. “It’s as if they’ve forgotten the person they've watched develop into adulthood from an orphaned babe- she is only judged by her looks and their effect on their men and she is blamed for it…”
Bindu feels trapped by the cycle of poverty and judgement she endures from the village women and is determined to become an independent woman who works as a doctor and earns an income so her grandmother can retire. So she works hard towards winning a scholarship to do so, however, under certain circumstances she became desperate for her grandmother to be treated by an English doctor leading to her marriage to Guru, the son of the landlord.

The story presents the themes of the social subjugation of women, poverty, sacrifices, love, friendship, prejudice,dreams and desires, motherhood and language. This novel is a direct critique of the societal standards for women and girls versus men and boys, each are held to a different set of rules. For instance, the restrictive social practices of women, women’s subservience to men, the premature marriage of girls, economic domination of women; no matter their class. Whereas men are allowed to engage in talk of politics, money and other affairs, they have full control of the money and their wives as women are viewed as the property of men. “They might be the elite, but the Indian women, nevertheless, hang respectfully behind their men, their faces covered by their extravagant saris. Even though they are nobility, they still suffer the same fate as the likes of Bindu- nonentities secondary to their men, their faces hidden, personalities not in evidence.”

Furthermore, Bindu feels trapped by the oppressive rules she faces as a woman, her autonomy gone as a person as she belongs to her husband, Guru whom she loves but the societal standards are ingrained into him. She regrets her life decisions of rejecting her scholarship but she sacrificed herself for her Ajji as she is the only one who loved her as she is. Although, she incites changes within the village and improves the lives of the villagers who lived in poverty. Poverty is a major theme presented, the landlord’s lifestyle versus the struggling lifestyle of the villagers where “it was sheer torture to cook these feasts, this lavish plenty for the landlord, and then eat a few grains of stony rice, dry chapatis made from maggot-infested flour…”

All of which led Bindu to starting a correspondence with Laurence Elliot, an English editor who became a dear friend of Bindu’s whom she shared her recipes with for the magazine, The Sentinel. Where she was paid in money and gained a confidant who viewed her as a person with valuable opinions rather than an object. He later adopted Eve, Bindu's daughter at the age of three who was under the care of Sunitha, Bindu's best friend. Sunitha is another example of one of the very few companions of the main character who supported her throughout her life from their time at school to Bindu’s time as Memsahib Ramraj in the landlord’s house until her inevitable demise after childbirth.

Following Eve’s story in 1980, she suffers the loss of her loved ones and in an effort to revive her passion for life she was encouraged by her daughter’s best friend to go to her birth country to explore who she is and where she came from. Eve discovers the story of her mother and father’s lives and the impact her mother has made on the lives of others. There is a shared passion for helping others between mother and daughter. Eve could follow her mother’s dreams of being independent and free from oppressive rulings even without knowing her mother.

I admire the resilience of Bindu as her story is truly inspiring. Even as she was suffering, she aided those who needed help even if they were against her. She craved her independence throughout her entire life and even though she could not afford it, her daughter could do so because of her.
Love appears in many forms; familial- Ajji and Bindu, platonic- Laurence and Bindu/ Bindu and Sunitha, romantic- Guru and Bindu and the bond between a human and animal- Bindu and Dumdee; her pet dog who she could not bring with her to the landlord’s house but whom she missed dearly and “writing so many tributes to her beloved pet that she’d filled an entire notebook,” after his passing.

My favourite symbol presented in the novel is the daffodil; a representation of rebirth and new beginnings which is important for Eve and her journey ahead as she follows her mother’s legacy.

Was this review helpful?

This book is set in different timelines, starting in Suryanagar in India in 1924 in the prologue, then moving forwards to 1939, and also London 1980.

The book sees Bindu, brought up by her Ajji - Grandmother in India, and Eve in London telling of their lives.
It is a very interesting book, it made me smile and also I felt saddened in some parts of the story.
I loved the writing style of the author, the descriptions of the food, mouthwatering, the atmosphere, and the vivid sounds and smells of India transports you there through her words.
It is the first book that I have read from the author, but it has whet my appetite to read more.
Such an absorbing book.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Publisher for an advanced e-book copy. Opinions about the book are entirely my own.

Was this review helpful?

“𝐇𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐰𝐨 𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐚𝐦𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐢𝐧.”

Renita D’Silva has crafted a wonderful story that encourages readers to get lost in the vibrant setting, the tantalizing blends of foods and spices, and the fascinating and exotic culture of India. She easily transported me by her attention to smell - it didn’t take much to imagine the burnt-sugar and honeyed-raisin scent of payasam or the cardamom-filled air. I dare anyone to read this and not crave biryani!

Yes, this fabulous historical fiction may focus on the 𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙜𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙛𝙖𝙘𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙄𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙖 𝙥𝙧𝙚-𝙞𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙥𝙚𝙣𝙙𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙚 AND it may spotlight an 𝙄𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙖𝙣 𝙬𝙤𝙢𝙖𝙣’𝙨 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙤𝙛 𝙖𝙜𝙚, BUT it also

✔️shows the strength and determination of those who refused to be cowed by circumstance
✔️gives voice to those who are often silenced
✔️is a fascinating look at the culture and class disparity within India
✔️examines what we do next when we feel we’ve let someone down or when we’ve realized that the life we are now living is different from the one we’d imagined
✔️examines the dangers of being blinded by love or turned mad by jealousy
✔️underlines the importance of communication
✔️highlights the horrors of losing our freedom/agency by focusing on immediate gains
✔️shows the resilience of children
✔️reinforces the sacrifices parents the world over have made/continue to make for their children
✔️lays out the strategies we can use when we feel trapped and need to escape our ‘destiny’
✔️showcases the value of a legacy

What stood out to me was that each character was allowed to shine and present his/her multifaceted personality. Guru may have been jealous, irritating, and overbearing, but he was also kind and thoughtful. My heart broke because he didn’t know Bindu’s love language. Bindu may have been driven, thoughtful, and expressive, but she was also manipulative and vengeful. My heart broke because despite sacrificing for her dreams, she had her hands tied behind her back, so to speak, and it prevented her from loving Guru in a way that was important to him. I think Sister Hilda’s warning words foreshadowed Bindu’s life perfectly when she cautioned, “You cannot have everything.” Like the Indian land and culture, D’Silva’s characters were contradictions themselves.

I loved and needed to read these lines:

“Every experience teaches you something about yourself and the most difficult ones shape you. They brand you, burn you, but you come out of them changed for the better.”

“She had all the food and water she wanted, but it tasted bitter, flavoured with the repercussions of her choice.”

I appreciated the symbolism of the daffodil.

I feel that this is D’Silva at the top of her game! A powerful, moving tribute to two women whose love leads to extraordinary sacrifice.

I was gifted this copy by Bookouture and NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review.

Was this review helpful?

This book is a tantalizing novel that skillfully weaves together the aromatic tapestry of family, tradition, and the enchanting world of spices. Set against the vibrant backdrop of India and England, the author takes us on a sensory journey that is as rich and complex as the flavors she describes.

The author writing is a feast for the senses. Her vivid descriptions of spices and their origins create a symphony of flavors that leaps off the pages. Her ability to evoke the scents and tastes is nothing short of impressive.

We follow a multi-generational family saga full of love and loss while we explore a dual timeline. First, we follow Bindu’s story in 1930’s India, and then Eve’s story in 1980’s London. The connection between the two stories takes some time to reveal itself but it’s fantastic when it happens.

While the plot is engaging, there are moments where the pacing feels a bit uneven. Some parts of the narrative are slower with a focus on intricate details. However, it is perfect for those who savor a more immersive storytelling experience, since this attention to detail, adds depth to the narrative.

I adored this story since the very beginning until the last page. It kept me so hooked that I read It in one setting. I highly recommend it to all who enjoy an exploration to family and heritage with a blend of cultural richness and a dash of spice.

Thank you, NetGalley & the publisher, for approving me to read this arc and write this review.

Was this review helpful?