Review: Love & Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food, and Love by Kim Fay


My Interest

An epistolary novel–a story told in letters, that concerns friendship, mentions many books, and tons of great food? You bet!

The Story

The less we cement ourselves to our certainties, the fuller our lives can be.”

Joan is a young woman in Los Angeles stifled by her job as a secretary for a drugstore. She reads a colorful column in a magazine about clam digging on the coast of Washington near Seattle. [The column is included after the author’s notes]. She writes to the author, Imogen (“Immy”) and Imogen writes back. A friendship is born.The time is October 1962 (when I was 7 months old!). The friends become early “foodies” and try new things and learn to cook fresh, exciting food. They share their hearts with each other about life, their men, world events, changes in the world and more. Imogen is 10 years older than Joan’s mother, but she feels like Immy could be her sister.

Note: Don’t skip over the author’s notes or the surprises at the end! So good. There are even recipes!

My Thoughts

A little disappointing. It’s hard to write too much about the story–it would all be spoilers. I must say this book was partially a disappointment–and I had truly expected to love it. An historical fiction pet peeve or two reared its/their head(s) [this ambiguity in counting is dependent upon how you view them].  Times were changing in the early to mid 1960s. but some attitudes expressed in the story were dangerously close to modern. 60 years ago was not today. At one point one of the ladies all but admits she discovered her “white privilege.” Lots of people were waking up to racism, its true, and women’s liberation was getting a great start, but it was laid on a little thick in this instance.

Also, there were things that were a bit prescient–mentioning how Scoop Jackson and others were said to be working on civil rights legislation and how cool it was to be alive at that point in history is an example. Those were a bit much. There were a few others–but that’s sampling enough of that sort of thing. I also felt having Joan, who wrote about food, being given an assignment to interview [no spoilers] had too tenuous a tie. That one was an eye-roll.

What I Loved. I liked the friendship that developed and though, probably due to today’s page limits, it had to develop quickly I did not find that difficult to accept. I liked the way Joan’s career progressed in a believable way from secretary to writer since she had the education necessary from Stanford and UCLA. I do wonder how her male friend felt about her new career (no spoilers) since he sort of got her started. I liked their relationship, but …[no spoilers]. I thought the Tijuana story, while it’s ending was the one I hoped for, did him a grave injustice.

I’d love to have know Joan, her mother, her male friend, and, especially, Immy, and Francis–and their University foodie-friends in real life. I shared Immy’s angst over the Pike Place Market in Seattle being threatened. Indianapolis’ City Market was reduced to a food court for a number of years–great lunch spot, but not what it was meant to be, so I loved the discussion of that. Urban Planning and “Urban Renewal” were very hot topics well into the 1970s–I have a great memory of that I’ll share another time.

I would enjoy reading the author’s other novel and her Vietnamese travel and cookbook and will request them from the library. She tells a good story. And, I’m in awe that she got to work at Elliott Bay Books! I loved that she, too, had an inspiring great aunt (I had more than one) who shared the New Yorker and more with her as mine did with me, and that her aunt was the model for Immy.

My Verdict


Love & Saffron by Kim Fay


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