This contemporary novel tells the story of Aliya, a Pakistani woman of an aristocratic family who becomes reacquainted with family members – first in London and then in Karachi – after being away for four years at a university in America. Aliya thinks of herself as a family historian and a storyteller, but over the course of the novel she becomes aware of aspects of her family’s story she never knew, especially that relating to the Partition of India which also divided the family. It’s easy for me to get lost in this book, both by the complex family relations and the many Urdu terms sprinkled through the text. On the other hand, unlike many Around the World for a Good Book choices, Salt and Saffron is funny. I knew this right from the start when Shamsie writes: “Confused? Would you rather I changed the topic to yak milk production?”
The plot feels a little flimsy and soulless as if its there merely to serve an intellectual exercise about genealogy. The novel has its moments and overall I’d say its a good but not great book.