Saturday, 16 May 2015

In Review, The Spice Box Letters by Eve Makis

Reviewed, The Spice Box Letters by Eve Makis

Fans of Victoria Hislop’s prose or Khaled Hosseini’s storytelling will love The Spice Box Letters, for Eve Makis’s latest novel is remarkable. It deserves to be an international bestseller and I have no doubt it will pick up an award or three. Beautifully written with inventive structure, compelling characters, historical horrors and natural humour, it’s a rich feast.


During the First World War the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire were subjected to holocaust. This ‘Armenian Genocide’ of massacre, torture, abduction, rape and starvation, resulted in much of the Armenian population being deported. Mariam was one such exile, separated from her beloved brother, and, later, her first love. After Mariam dies, her granddaughter Katerina inherits a wooden spice box containing letters and a journal. Having these translated, Katerina learns of Mariam’s childhood and, in making her own journey, discovers her family’s tragic backstory. Katerina (present) and Mariam (past) are both joined by the book’s best character, Gabriel (great uncle/brother), who doesn’t take centre stage until well into the novel.

The many settings, partly defined by their cuisine, are vividly depicted and the family superbly represent this often neglected period of history (and location). It’s an engaging read that takes risks with its structure. The novel is a spice box of secrets, lined with emotion, and full of a history that rests on love. Outside the box is a present of hope, romance, and, in the case of Gabriel and his immediate family, dark and full humour.

If Nottinghamshire’s authors had a league table, Makis would now be in the Champions League places. The switching viewpoints, time periods and setting work perfectly. It’s easy to keep up with all the love and loss.

We would not be here without our ancestors and in knowing our past, and taking pride in one’s heritage, we can learn to respect other cultures. All this whilst understanding the value of family, blood or adopted, and that it must follow new directions. Prepare to cry.

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