Title: Love & Saffron
Author: Kim Fay
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: February 8, 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction
In the vein of the classic 84, Charing Cross Road, this witty and tender novel follows two women in 1960s America as they discover that food really does connect us all, and that friendship and laughter are the best medicine.
When twenty-seven-year-old Joan Bergstrom sends a fan letter–as well as a gift of saffron–to fifty-nine-year-old Imogen Fortier, a life-changing friendship begins. Joan lives in Los Angeles and is just starting out as a writer for the newspaper food pages. Imogen lives on Camano Island outside Seattle, writing a monthly column for a Pacific Northwest magazine, and while she can hunt elk and dig for clams, she’s never tasted fresh garlic–exotic fare in the Northwest of the sixties. As the two women commune through their letters, they build a closeness that sustains them through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the unexpected in their own lives.
Food and a good life—they can’t be separated. It is a discovery the women share, not only with each other, but with the men in their lives. Because of her correspondence with Joan, Imogen’s decades-long marriage blossoms into something new and exciting, and in turn, Joan learns that true love does not always come in the form we expect it to. Into this beautiful, intimate world comes the ultimate test of Joan and Imogen’s friendship—a test that summons their unconditional trust in each other.
A brief respite from our chaotic world, Love & Saffron is a gem of a novel, a reminder that food and friendship are the antidote to most any heartache, and that human connection will always be worth creating.
Why This Book
Love & Saffron is focused on the friendship between Joan and Imogen. They’re two very different women, Joan being a young single woman in LA and Imogen being an older married woman in Washington. Despite their differences, they really have a lovely friendship that manages to change both of them, as well as add a bit of spice into Imogen’s marriage. While Imogen didn’t always mention her husband, I found it very sweet when she did, and I loved how he grew from a man who didn’t quite seem as worldly as his wife into someone who really stepped out of his comfort zone to try new foods with Imogen, which helped to turn back the clock on their marriage.
My review: “…much more of it was devoted to more personal things. Imogen’s husband Francis deals with the trauma from having fought in WWII, which impacts their marriage, but Imogen’s friendship with Joan seems to trigger something. Their rekindled romance is a beautiful thing, making the ending that much more bittersweet”
Historical Novel Society says “as the friendship between Imogen and Joan deepens, it becomes clear that they both experience private pain, making them deeply sympathetic and relatable. Their friendship becomes an anchor in both of their lives”
The Gilmore Guide to Books gave this 5 stars, saying “As the letters accumulate, each stretching in new directions—learning about fresh garlic, a new TV show with a female cook named Julia—so do the women. Immy’s marriage is reinvigorated and she begins to look around her at other uses for her life. Joan uses Immy’s self-assurance to push herself into a new career and worry less about what other people think”
Karen K is Reading gave this 5 stars, saying “This is a book about love – love for food, friendship and romance. Joan and Imogen support each other through a number of challenges, and find that their worlds expand as they try food and visit places recommended by the other”
Books & Bindings gave this 5 stars, saying “The women easily established a bond that allowed them to freely expose their innermost fears and bare themselves on paper as they could to no one else in their lives. Their words plumbed all the feels and put hot rocks in my throat and stung my eyes as well as lifted my spirits”
Nana’s Whimsies said “Through their correspondence, they become familiar not only with one another, but with their lives and their challenges and their loves and hates. Joan challenges Imogene to look at food a bit differently, and Imogene accepts the challenge with joy. Imogene’s joy is shared with her husband, a typical mid-20th century man who has never cooked a meal in his life, and who looks at his life as a predictable drudge. But he takes on the initial challenge of saffron, and his life is never the same”
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Check out all the other books featured this month on The Curated Bookshelf.
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