‘Let go of the past, my friend. All that stored up resentment isn’t good for the soul.’
‘The past is not like water in a toilet bowl. It can’t be flushed away. It’s a septic tank growing more rancid by the day.’
The reader discovers before he does Gabriel’s link to Mariam and Katerina, and from that point the novel is driven by the question of whether these characters will finally connect.
somewhat of Victoria Hyslop’s bestseller, The Island, although I liked The Spice Box Letters better.
I was excited to be able to attend the launch event for The Spice Box Letters at Five Leaves Bookshop to hear Eve Makis read two beautiful extracts from her novel. The first evoked the sights and smells of a busy marketplace in 1915 eastern Turkey, when a young Mariam first encounters hostility towards the Armenians; the second, the novel’s humorous introduction to Gabriel’s curmudgeonly character (p 71):
Thick with the aroma and flavour of traditional Armenian cuisine (although I did begin to wonder about my virtual calorie consumption as I read through the lists of sumptuous home-cooked dishes), The Spice Box Letters is about the fragmented histories arising from the refugee experience and about the endurance of family love. Thanks to Sandstone Press (publishers of The Surfacing) for my review copy. If this review has whetted your appetite, I also urge you to read about the author’s connection with Cyprus on Isabel Costello’s literary sofa.
The latest Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge reminded me of another aspect of Gabriel’s history portrayed in the novel. Charli Mills asks us to write a 99-word story including a juxtaposition between the ordinary and natural worlds. I wasn’t so sure about the distinction between those terms, but I was inspired by other aspects of Charli’s post, including mining and medical care, in composing my flash:
I was glad to make my home in the mountains, with a cooling breeze moderating the heat of the Mediterranean sun. On feast days, we’d dance and drink with the neighbours, the violins muffling the drone of the mine. No-one complained about the dust that clung to every surface, that wormed its way into our lungs. In our eyes, the village was beautiful, clothed in white the whole year round.
Now I lie in the hospital, a mask strapped to my face. People cringe on learning what put food in our bellies back then. Asbestos. Natural isn’t always best.
Fortunately, in the novel, Gabriel moves away from the asbestos mine before it does him real damage.
I’d love to know what you think.