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Pomegranate Soup

(Babylon Café #1)

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  4,412 ratings  ·  625 reviews
Beneath the holy mountain Croagh Patrick, in damp and lovely County Mayo, sits the small, sheltered village of Ballinacroagh. To the exotic Aminpour sisters, Ireland looks like a much-needed safe haven. It has been seven years since Marjan Aminpour fled Iran with her younger sisters, Bahar and Layla, and she hopes that in Ballinacroagh, a land of “crazed sheep and dizzying ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 12th 2006 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2005)
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Average rating 3.58  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,412 ratings  ·  625 reviews

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Pixietweet Clip
Oct 03, 2008 rated it did not like it
I hated every second of this pseudo magic realist ouevre. The writing is trying so hard to be eloquent and poetic but it's totally Hallmark. The writer graduated from the adjective school of writing. Yuck. Then again it's an easy read if you're in bed with the flu.

on the plus side: great recipes. little glimpse into both Iranian and Irish life.
Nov 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who love to cook and read
Recommended to Rebecca by: Holyn
This book was very wonderful for what it was--a delicious mixture of food and the personal journeys of three sisters who escape Iran on the eve of the revolution and eventually make their way to Ireland. This book pleasantly reminded me of another book about the magic of food from another culture--The Mistress of Spices.

We learn of the sisters' experiences in Iran through flashbacks throughout the book, and I really appreciated Mehran's light touch in her descriptions of the sisters' painful
Jennifer (JC-S)
Sep 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: librarybooks
Sometimes it is good to suspend belief and surrender your imagination to a form of magical realism which can transcend cultural barriers.
Three orphaned sisters, who fled Iran seven years earlier, have found their way to a small town in Ireland where they hope to make a home. They bring with them their heritage, their demons and their hopes for a better future. Marjan, Bahar and Layla open the Babylon Cafe in the heart of Ballinacroagh’s Main Mall. The smell of traditional Persian cooking wafting
Aug 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was a delicious summer read. Part "Journey from the Land of No", part "The Taste of Chocolate", Marsha Mehran tells a magical tale of 3 sisters who change the village of Ballinacroagh, Ireland when they move to town after fleeing the Iranian revolution. In the process of becoming part of the community and influencing the people who live there, they begin to come to terms with their own painful past. Each chapter starts with a recipe for a Persian delicacy which is incorporated into the ...more
Jun 14, 2012 rated it liked it
My dear friend Cathy sent me this book, and I imagine that she bought it because of its title: Pomegranate Soup, which is the best soup that I have ever eaten. She and I had it as a small Persian café, Soltan Banno, in San Diego, CA just before I moved to Oklahoma.

I had met Cathy in an encounter group while in college. We both lived in Berkeley, and at one time we both dated Iranians. I moved to San Diego just before moving to Oklahoma. She and I remain close friends to this very day.

In the
Aug 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who love to cook and read
Journey with the Aminpour sisters as they embark on a new chapter of their lives in Marsha Mehran’s novel, Pomegranate Soup. Marjan, Bahar and Layla escape amidst the Iran Revolution and open up the Babylon Café in a small Irish village where they awaken sleeping dreams and ignite new possibilities. Anyone who has been an outsider in a close-knit community can relate to the sisters who are faced with suspicion and discrimination in their new home. Moreover, they continue to be haunted by the ...more
Aug 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
I do feel I'm being a bit harsh here. There was such lot to like about this book - I'm a sucker for a cozy novel about food, initially it seemed a lightweight derivative of "Like water for chocolate" - which is brilliant & of course you can't expect every novel to invent a new genre. There is quite a bit of interesting and quite dark material about fleeing from Iran & then her sometimes insightful & sometimes rather dismissive view of Oirland. However ultimately I found this novel ...more
Jan 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Fabulous story of Iranian women fleeing the revolution who land in a small Irish town. Food figures in it similar to the way it does in"Like Water for Chocolate". It borders on magical realism (Irish-Iranian magical realism?)The moral of the story is that we all must change and move on in our lives. the past is always behind us and the future ahead.
Feb 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: For fans of Chocolat or Like Water for Chocolate
Set in the 1980s, three Iranian sisters set up a cafe in an Irish village to escape demons from the Iranian Revolution. First viewed with suspicion by most of the village, the sisters slowly carve a place for themselves. Lush descriptions of food and sympathetic characters make this an enjoyable and quick read. I am pleased to see that the author's second book is coming out in May 2008.
Set in the fictitious village of Ballinacroagh of County Mayo in western Ireland, the book opens with three sisters working feverishly as they count down the minutes to the opening of their new café – the Babylon Café. It’s here that Marjan, Berhar and Layla are planting their roots after having fled Iran during the Iranian revolution of 1979 via Pakistan to the safe shores of London. Having toiled in the U.K. for a while, they have found solace in the beautiful country of Ireland, where they ...more
Nov 17, 2008 rated it liked it
This charming book is set in small-town Ireland in the 1980s. It centers around a trio of sisters who have made their way from Iran after the revolution. They're haunted by their pasts, but they're also blazing a trail for a new, more cosmopolitan Ireland as they open a restaurant and broaden the horizons of the townspeople. It's reminiscent of Maeve Binchy, but with a more exotic flair (complete with recipes). A light read.
Jan 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was an easy to read, enjoyable book. I loved the food/recipe tie-ins and found myself wanting to learn more about Persian culture and cuisine when I was finished. I like to author's gentle approach to the story and I felt like the characters were real, with the exception of the bad guy, who seemed too bitter and hateful to me. Very pleasant overall!
Mar 28, 2019 rated it liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed how the book is organized. It definitely makes a cooking enthusiast to try one of those recipes out. Also, Mehran really knows how to sell food; the way the Iranian cuisine is described is sure to make you feel like you are missing out.
The plot of the book is nice. I enjoyed the story and the characters. However, there's a lot about the description of the characters seemed immature to me, especially Lyla and Malachy. Mehran also provides extensive details of things that I
Mar 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
I was on the waiting list at the library to borrow this book for AGES, weeks and weeks, and when i finally got the chance to read it, i knocked it over in a couple of days. Its a quick, simple read, but i really enjoyed it. Ive recently discovered what is known as 'food fiction', which this book falls under, and i really love the concept.

The story of three Iranian girls who escape the Iranian revolution in the 1970s and move to Ireland to set up a cafe, i loved every second of this book. I
May 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Enjoyable read that I would definitely recommend. How do three sisters from Iran end up in an Irish village? You'll have to read it to find out. The storyline kept me pulled in and although I felt the middle sister's story was left a bit unresolved, I still liked it. The descriptive prose that the author uses to describe food kind of made me hungry for something different other than the usual koobideh kabobs I order when I have Persian food hehe. Sometimes, though, the author was *so* ...more
Mar 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
This book would be great to add to the global perpectives curriculum at school. Interesting book in that it shows the culture of people in a different country. Three sisters flee from the revolution in Iran in the late 70s. They settle in Ireland which I thought was a most unlikely place for them. But they open the Bombay Cafe and try to start a new life. The most interesting parts of the book for me were the flashbacks to their life in Iran and the escape to Ireland, although their start in ...more
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: challengereads
I loved this book. It was a simple story but it draws you in. I love any books that weaves cooking and recipes into the story. Many reviews indicate this is so similar to Chocolat. I read both of these books and did not feel they were so similar. Yes, a foreigner moves into a town where the locals rebel, the stories revolve around food. Other than that, I think they both stand on their own. I loved how the story also weaved in the sisters history of Iran. I'm very much looking forward to reading ...more
Jun 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
While I thought there was a lot of potential, I found it to be way too contrived and dumbed down for the subject matter (rape, revolution, domestic violence, religious tolerance, bigotry). I quickly lost interest as each problem arose at the beginning of a chapter, then was solved by the end of the same chapter. Too 'Brady Bunch' for me to get invested in.
Feb 17, 2008 rated it liked it
Three Iranian sisters cook fabulous food in a remote Irish village. The sensual writing is mouthwatering and the juxtaposition of the very contemporary plight of the immigrant sisters with the traditional County Mayo setting is interesting. Not much complexity in the plot or the characters.
Jesse Anderson
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I picked this up from my library's sale section for $1 a few months ago. Little did I know, it would prove to be worth so much more. This was a beautiful read. I felt the magic of warmth that culture and food bring together in people. Each chapter focused on a different recipe that Marjan would concoct and it made The Babylon Cafe all the more real. Yes, the sisters' stories were sad but they were also full of hope, light and beauty. I loved seeing them grow and learn how to deal with ...more
Lauri Saplad
A skillfully crafted tale that doles out information slowly and delicately, much like the complicated recipes Marjan lovingly concocts in the Babylon Cafe. 3 Iranian sisters find themselves in the small Irish village of Ballinacroagh. After fleeing their homeland in fear of their lives, they wind up in Ireland by way of England through roundabout ways. They have a difficult time winning over the mistrustful villagers, but finally things start coming around when their beautiful desserts and ...more
Claire O'Brien
I enjoyed aspects of this novel, with the cheekiness and irreverence brought by the magical realism it reminded me of Like Water for Chocolate, (although I admit it's years since I read the latter, so maybe my comparison is off), but the seriousness of the scenes in Iran were too great a contrast and didn't sit well within the lighter context of the novel. It all ended a bit too quickly too, with everything suddenly resolved, but I did like some of the characters and it amused me.
Jul 02, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book (the food sounded amazing and I loved the recipes throughout the novel) however everything wrapped itself up too quickly for me. I feel as though the auther could have spent much more time fleshing out the characters, making their thoughts and motives more understandable.
Jul 31, 2017 rated it liked it
This was an interesting read, a lot about the food and tying it to the sisters lives. I was disappointed in the ending. I felt the author left a lot of unanswered questions, it was almost like she just ran out of story so she just wrapped it all up with a bow and finished.
Jeanette Meehan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lovely story. I was looking for a book to meet a challenge requirement - a book with food in the title - and came across this one. Young Iranian sisters now living in Ireland with a restaurant. Hmm, bit fanciful, but it sounded fun. It was more than fun (a bit fanciful, yes. But I really like that!) It was a smart read. Each chapter has a recipe for a Persian dish. Each chapter had the memory of the role that dish played in their younger lives when Iran was not ruled by extremists and the law of ...more
Book Concierge
Three sisters flee Tehran for a small town in Ireland. When Marjan, Behar and Layla take over the former Papa’s Pastries to open Ballinacroagh’s first “foreign” restaurant, they are met with curious gazes and even hostility. Tom McGuire, their next-door neighbor, is furious that his big plans have been thwarted by these “Arabs” and he is determined to bully everyone in town until they girls are run off. But he doesn’t count on the magical powers of the Marjan’s exotic recipes, and the ...more
Bibi Rose
Oct 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 05, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: adults
I really enjoyed this book and its insight to both the Persian and Irish cultures. The author presents very interesting and entertaining character descriptions, although sometimes I wondered why she went into such depth on descriptions of minor characters, but overall I really appreciated the character descriptions. The food was another character, and that was very well described -- I already had an appreciation for Persian cuisine, and these descriptions made me want to hurry to my favorite ...more
Mar 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another pleasant surprise! Picked this up off the shelf at the library and thought it was my kind of book. And boy was I right. This book is kind of Maeve Binchy meets The Kite Runner. On first glance it looks like a sweet book about three Iranian sisters who move into a tiny Irish town and open a cafe. But the flashbacks to Iran a the time of the revolution, the glimpses into the sister's lives and why they fled Iran make this a much deeper, richer book. It is also full of wonderful ...more
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Marsha Mehran escaped the upheaval of the Iranian revolution with her family. She grew up in the United States, Australia and Argentina, where her parents operated a Middle Eastern café. She lived in both Brooklyn and Ireland.

Other books in the series

Babylon Café (2 books)
  • Rosewater and Soda Bread
“It is the pomegranate that gives 'fesenjoon' its healing capabilities. The original apple of sin, the fruit of a long gone Eden, the pomegranate shields itself in a leathery crimson shell, which in Roman times was used as a form of protective hide. Once the pomegranate's bitter skin is peeled back, though, a juicy garnet flesh is revealed to the lucky eater, popping and bursting in the mouth like the final succumber of lovemaking.
Long ago, when the earth remained still, content with the fecundity of perpetual spring, and Demeter was the mother of all that was natural and flowering, it was this tempting fruit that finally set the seasons spinning. Having eaten six pomegranate seeds in the underworld, Persephone, the Goddess of Spring's high-spirited daughter, had been forced to spend six months of the year in the eternal halls of death. Without her beautiful daughter by her side, a mournful Demeter retreated to the dark corners of the universe, allowing for the icy gates of winter to finally creak open. A round crimson herald of frost, the pomegranate comes to harvest in October and November, so 'fesenjoon' is best made with its concentrate during other times of the year.”
“Unlike the classical Greeks, for whom the fruit symbolized the inescapable cycle of bitter death, with a remorseful Persephone returning to the underworld for her six months of required winter, Marjan liked to believe the old stories of Persian soothsayers, who held a different vision of the tart fruit's purpose in life. She liked to remember that above all else, above all the unfortunate connotations of death and winter, the pomegranate was, and always would be, the fruit of hope.
The flower of fertility, of new things and old seasons to be cradled.”
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