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The Mistress of Spices

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  11,670 ratings  ·  918 reviews
Magical, tantalizing, and sensual, The Mistress of Spices is the story of Tilo, a young woman born in another time, in a faraway place, who is trained in the ancient art of spices and ordained as a mistress charged with special powers.  Once fully initiated in a rite of fire, the now immortal Tilo--in the gnarled and arthritic body of an old woman--travels through time to ...more
Paperback, 338 pages
Published February 17th 1998 by Anchor (first published 1997)
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3.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  11,670 ratings  ·  918 reviews

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Feb 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
I probably wouldn’t have read this if I hadn’t been introduced to Ms. Divakaruni by a former student who was taking a class from her and loved her. I always feel as though I should read people’s books if I’ve met them, which has gotten me stuck with some duds. Fortunately this wasn’t one of them. With a writing style that’s both conversational and lyrical, Divakaruni engulfs you in a heady blend of mysticism, romance, and realism as complex and sensual as the spices she writes about. The story t ...more
Oct 01, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Romance book readers
This book belongs on a Harlequin/ Mills & Boon bookshelf. I picked it up expecting something quite different from the lukewarm and soggy story telling it contained. Perhaps the author was aiming for magic realism but ended up with a mishmash of genres and not one that was well-developed.

The story revolves around a woman who had a weird past that has no real connection to her present. She "inhabits" an old body for no good reason other than she might actually be that old (the book meanders a
Sep 12, 2010 rated it it was ok
Good idea poorly executed.

The poetic language lauded in other reviews is over the top and gets obnoxious quickly. The author has an odd form of Tourrete's that makes her spit out similies - "eyes dark as a tropical night" - that aren't necessarily half bad , but there are so many of them they begin to grate.

The author follows. The unimaginative trend. Of chopping up sentences. Into fragments. In the name of art. Which wasn't cool even the first time it was done. By someone else.

The title chara
Dec 04, 2010 rated it liked it
Oh dear, whatever one says is going to sound like damnation via faint praise. Yes, this is magical realism; no, it isn't as accomplished as the best examples in that genre. Yes, it is an occasionally beguiling love story; no, it isn't without its languors and flat spots. Yes, the end in particular keeps one turning pages to see what happens; no, it isn't quite as moving and powerful as this reader hoped it would be. Entertaining, enjoyable, not life-changing. I felt the strongest passages weren' ...more
Mar 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Misty... fragrant... intoxicating.. mythical... spicy!!

I have read almost all books of Chitra Banerjee and each read makes me crave for more.. her intriguing characters, colorful stories and much are like bites from your faviorite dish which you eat one at a time so that the taste lasts forever.. holding me close to the book and I wish it never ends.. The best part about her books are the interesting character sketches.. generally a character has shades of black or white or a mixed grey.. but Ch
Mar 14, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandonados
Abandonado tras intentarlo varias veces, pero la protagonista no me acaba de enganchar. No me gusta dejar los libros a mitad, porque a veces te sorprende con el final, sin embargo con éste prefiero no despediciar mi tiempo.
I picked the book up on a secondhand book sale and was intrigued by the spices which, in retrospect, should have been the protagonists in the tale! But I always enjoyed the magic flavors of the huge Asian spice markets in South Africa, where it is exhibited in heaps and weighed on ancient scales. The memories of going to the Indian markets on a Saturday morning buying flowers, fruit, vegetables and magical spices, combined with an everlasting curiosity about other cultures and stories, got me bo ...more
Sara Zovko
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Magična Indija kroz bajkovitu priču o začinima i njihovom utjecaju na ljude i njihove živote, osjećaje i odluke, sa prstohvatom ljubavi i njezinim posljedicama.
Začini su samo dio priče, ono bitno su ipak ljudi, žena koja je odlučila izaći iz svog balona u kojem je živjela i pomoći drugima oko sebe da pronađu svoju sreću, čak i uz mogućnost da ona zauvijek izgubi sve svoje.
Aug 21, 2009 rated it liked it
I nominated this for my f2f book group because I was curious. The author lives in Houston and is a friend of a friend. I was expecting a relatively simple, domestic novel, but was pleasantly surprised to find a dazzlingly original example of magical realism.

The main character doesn’t even have a stable name. It changes as her life changes: first she’s Nayan Tara, the disappointing girl child who’s ugly—the color of mud—but who has psychic gifts that make the family’s fortune in a small village o
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: magical-realism
I absolutely adored this book. I've read it about ten times since I first got my hand on it, and it's been a companion all through puberty and the rocky university years. What's funny, then, is that it took me so long to realise what this book is really about, and what it was that drew me to it. First up - the writing is like jewels on a page. She evokes such beautiful imagery and a wonderful magical universe just with her words; one cannot help but be swept away in its beauty.

Secondly, it's so
Oct 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
I was expecting more of this book. I picked it up randomly at the library because I am intrigued by Indian cooking and their creative use of spices. I liked the soft, poetic language of the first pages, but it was a weak book. The skeleton that the magical language hung on was weak and porous. It seemed immediately to be derivitive - an inferior version of "Like Water for Chocolate". If you like magical realism, read that one instead.
Cameron Chaney
Mar 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Cameron by: Darth J
This book is so unique and beautiful. Really liked this one! Full review to come.
Mar 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: indian
Magical realism, spices and a rebellious heroine... It had all the right ingredients but the first half gave me a feeling of something amiss. The second half was racy but the ending was too contrived...
Raymond Hu
Jun 05, 2011 rated it did not like it
I think it was boring personally and just the type of books i hate. I mean like i get the storyline a bit but like half of the book you don't really need to know about. I felt the author added to much stuff about minor characters that had nothing to do with the main ideas of the story and it kind of made the story fail in my point of view. I also gave it a low rating because the book couldn't get to the point fast enough like they leave you with an idea halfway and it switches to a whole new ide ...more
Jul 07, 2008 rated it liked it
love the premise, magic acting through spices. the heroine is supposed to use her training and powers for her own people but compassion leads her to help all who come to her--a lesson in diversity? a dreamy lilt to the tone of the writing, charming word arrangement (is English the author's second language?), an ending that reminds me of that one Batman villain from the animated series who wants to destroy the world so it can heal itself over (Razul?). the love story part is on the verge of silly ...more
Book Concierge
This is a modern-day fairy tale, and like all fairy tales there is a lesson (or several) to be learned. Reminiscent of "Like Water for Chocolate." Makes me wish I knew more about spice lore and Indian folklore.
I read it again in Sept 1998 and it is even better on second reading. I picked up many more clues. FATE at work here? DESTINY? A most intriguing book.
Ashok Krishna
Apr 28, 2015 rated it did not like it
There is this very important thing about performing magic. Unless you have a deep grasp of your magic and pronounce the runes properly, the magic will not work. What is worse, it might backfire and the invoked spirit might even end up killing you. This very thing seems to have happened to Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni in writing this book. Her writing magic, if I could call it so, has backfired and, Goodness, it has done so very badly.

The first book of this author that I had read was ‘The Palace of
Apr 12, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-pause
I tried to read and enjoy this book. I read the summary, prior to purchasing it and it sounded promising. However, after the first 15 pages, I knew I was doomed. None-the-less, I kept going, but I just could not get into this book.

The prose is beautiful but heavy...and I detect this is supposed to be along the lines of fantasy...but I was lost. To the DNF shelf this goes until another time.
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Questa lettura, per me, ha una storia strana. Vidi il libro qulche anno fa sul banco di una biblioteca dell'Università, era di una ragazza che a furia di leggerlo lo aveva consumato.
Mi colpì il nome dell'autrice, che non conoscevo... aveva un nome che sapeva di India... annotai nome e titolo sul palmo della mano e mi diressi nella prima libreria: preso! (conservo ancora lo scontrino come segnalibro!) Come spesso accade il libro rimase sulla mia scrivania per ben due anni. Non di oblio ma di abb
May 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
As a big fan of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, I collect many of her books. The ones I have read are The Unknown Errors of Our Lives, Arranged Married, and the last one is The Mistress of Spices.

Like in her other books, in The Mistress of Spices, Divakaruni uses her beautiful writing style. Soft, unhurried, strong. She makes readers captivated in such a way that you feel every single sensation the main character, Tilo, undergoes.

This novel is somehow a flight of imagination, yet Divakaruni helps yo
Jul 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
I totally wanted to like this, and I did starting out...but 1/3 of the way through I just felt the pace slow to the speed of molasses, or maybe ghee if we're going to be culturally accurate.

Tilo travels through time from a magical island to a spice shop in Oakland, where she gives out magic potions to other Indians but is supposed to let everyone else suffer through life on their own. (Yeah, that's the premise.) Then she meets a handsome American who appears to see how beautiful she is under her
Juniper Blackthorn
Feb 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favs
Hacía semanas que me estaba llamando desde una de las estanterías de El Corte Inglés. Apenas leí la sinopsis, pero sabía que el libro de estaba eligiendo para leer su historia.

Al principio me extrañaba la forma en que Chitra lo había escrito. Pero pronto me hice con ella y se me hizo natural. La suavidad y misterio con que envuelve a la protagonista, su pasado, sus palabras, sus secretos y deseos. Contiene frases que te hacen pensar; escenas que te encogen el corazón, otras que hacen que se vea
Libro strano, riuscito solo a metà : la prima parte e’ molto bella e trasporta il lettore in una sfera atemporale dove sogno e fiaba si fondono armoniosamente, nella parte centrale la narrazione diventa piu’ tradizionale e sentimentale ed anche piu’ monotona ed il finale e’ da romanzetto rosa.
Nonostante questo sbilanciamento, e’ un libro da leggere : la narrazione e’ lieve ed il romanzo non e’ basato su una trama ben definita, ma ruota intorno all’ insieme di odori, sapori e colori di cui trasu
Nov 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: movie, Adira
“Sometimes I wonder if there is such a thing as reality, an objective and untouched nature of being. Or if all that we encounter has already been changed by what we had imagined it to be. If we have dreamed it into being.”
― Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Mistress of Spices

I saw the movie last year and felt there was a whole back story missing ... I was right.
What a beautiful fairy tale with elements of "Chocolat" but with a spicy twist!
Charlotte B.
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asie
Durant mes vacances d'été il y a deux ans, j'avais eu beaucoup de plaisir à découvrir Le palais des illusions de Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni grâce à mon abonnement Exploratology. Cette très belle réécriture du Mahabharata, entre mythe et histoire de femmes, m'avait envoûtée. Donc quand je suis tombée sur La maîtresse des épices en librairie, avec sa belle couverture dorée, sa quatrième de couverture alléchante et ses titres de chapitre au nom d'épices, je n'ai pas hésité ! 

C'est donc avec plaisir
Pranky reads
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It may have taken some time for me to connect with book, but many times in many characters it spoke my personality.
this is a book that leaves an impact and definitely makes you love your spices more..
Fiza Pathan
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was reduced to tears. Never felt this way about a book of fiction for a really long time. A must read for everyone who loves good, well crafted & sublime Indian fiction. Those who are into the spices themselves, this will be something beautiful to experience with all your senses.
Donna LaValley
Oct 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Bits of magic, fantasy, folk remedies, herbal information, cultural studies of the lives of immigrants from India living in Oakland in the 1980’s (prejudice, violence), and wish-fulfillment highlight this book by an author whose book of short stories, “Arranged Marriage,” I truly enjoyed. She’s a gifted author whose work is for all, but this book is definitely ‘chick lit” – not that there’s anything wrong with that!

There are dozens of reviews so I won’t elaborate on plot points but will explain
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Oduvijek me zanimala Indija i njena kultura, njene boje ,život i kuhinja, tako da me je ova knjiga zainteresirala u punom smislu te riječi. Moram priznati da mi je sam naslov aludirao na nešto sasvim drugo.Mislila sam da će se knjiga baviti više sa kuhanjem i indijskom kuhinjom,međutim u ovoj knjizi nema toga puno. Pa o čemu se onda tu radi , ako ne o kuhanju, pitat ćete se.

Priča je to o ženi , Indijki Tilo, čiju trgovinu sa indijskim začinima posjećuju većinom indijski doseljenici koji kuhaju n
Dec 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is redolent with the richness and scent of spices. It is positively poetic in places and had me rushing to find my pestle and mortar to rediscover the joys of the spices she lovingly describes. But ultimately it is a book about people, about life,about love and about belonging. It is also a personal journey - at the begining you will dislike the protagonist and her selfish attitude but this is gradually transformed. For those of you who dislike the ending all I can say is that it is a ...more
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Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning author and poet. Her themes include the Indian experience, contemporary America, women, immigration, history, myth, and the joys and challenges of living in a multicultural world. Her work is widely known, as she has been published in over 50 magazines, including the Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, and her writing has been included in over 50 ant ...more
“Each day has a color, a smell.” 97 likes
“Each spice has a special day to it. For turmeric it is Sunday, when light drips fat and butter-colored into the bins to be soaked up glowing, when you pray to the nine planets for love and luck.” 35 likes
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