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3 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

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The Mistress of Spices


The Mistress of Spices Cover

ISBN13: 9780385482387
ISBN10: 0385482388
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. The New York Times Book Review states that The Mistress of Spices "becomes a novel about choosing between a life of special powers and one of ordinary love and compassion." Did Tilo choose correctly? Why or why not?

2. How do the spices become characters in the novel?

3. Tilo only speaks her name out loud to one person in the novel. What is the significance of this action? What role do names play in the novel?

4. What do the spices take from Tilo? What do they give her? Is it a fair exchange?

5. Tilo left her shop for the first time early in the novel to look at Haroun's cab. But later she is drawn even further out by Raven. Was her course already set at that point? Would she have left again even without Raven's pull?

6. In what ways is punishment seen as a natural force in this novel? How are punishment and retribution tied to balance?

7. Tilo says, "Better hate spoken than hate silent." Does hate spoken achieve the effect Tilo intends or not?

8. Divakaruni chose to write The Mistress of Spices in the first person present tense. Does this point of view add or detract from the story?

9. What passages of the novel resemble poetry? How does Divakaruni make use of lyricism and rhythm?

10. What role does physical beauty play in this story? In Tilo's feelings about her body? About Raven? About the bougainvillea girls?

11. Does Raven's story (pp. 161-171) differ from Tilo's story of her past at the points where she tells it? Do these differences say anything about the differences between women and men, or between Indians and Americans?

12. How are physical acts of violence and disaster foreshadowed in the novel? What is the significance of foreshadowing in Indian culture?

13. For Discussion: Divakaruni's Novels and Stories

What do the characters in Divakaruni's novels and stories lose and gain as they become more "American"?

14. In the story "Affair," Abha says, "It's not wrong to be happy, is it? To want more out of life than fulfilling duties you took on before you knew what they truly meant?" How is this idea further developed in The Mistress of Spices? In Sister of My Heart?

15. In Divakaruni's stories, women are wives and mothers, but the men are portrayed primarily as husbands, not fathers. How are the men's roles in the novels similar to or different from those in the stories?

16. How does the Indian immigrant experience compare to that of other immigrants--Spanish, Italian, Chinese?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

bookcase, October 27, 2014 (view all comments by bookcase)
The publisher's description makes this sound like a fantasy novel, but the mysticism in this book serves as a vehicle for compelling story-telling, focusing on the lives of Indian immigrants to the U.S. and their struggles to balance their cultural identities with the challenges of their new lives in America. Ultimately, the novel's protagonist, devoted only to serving others, must question her own identity and her desire for self-fulfillment. I was profoundly moved, not only by Tilo's story, but by those of all the secondary characters.
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Jonna, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by Jonna)
My mother & sister had been raving for weeks about a film called The Mistress of Spices, which I hadn't been able to see, so when I came across this title on the library shelf, I grabbed it. Turns out I now have something to rave about myself!
Highly descriptive & elegant, the story of Tilo, the Mistress and her many transformations is touching. As Tilo changes the lives of those around her with the help of her spices, she also discovers the life & love she truly wants.
Now that I've seen the film, I'd choose anyway!
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Product Details

Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee
Anchor Books
Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee
New York :
Fantastic fiction
Love stories
Oakland (calif.)
Oakland (Calif.) Fiction.
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
fiction;india;magical realism;fantasy;novel;spices;romance;magic;california;oakland;20th century;women;literature;food;immigrants;san francisco;indian fiction;literary fiction;mythology;indien;america;contemporary fiction;love;american;indian-american
fiction;india;magical realism;fantasy;novel;spices;romance;magic;california;oakland;20th century;women;literature;food;immigrants;san francisco;indian fiction;literary fiction;mythology;indien;america;contemporary fiction;love;american;indian-american
Edition Number:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.00x5.24x.73 in. .58 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Cultural Heritage

The Mistress of Spices Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$5.50 In Stock
Product details 352 pages Anchor Books - English 9780385482387 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Magical, tantalizing, and sensual, "The Mistress of Spices" tells the story of Tilo, a young woman born in another time in a faraway place who is trained in the ancient art of spices. When Tilo--disguised in the gnarled body of an old woman--travels to present-day Oakland, California, an unexpected romance with a handsome stranger forces her to choose between the supernatural life of an immortal and the vicissitudes of modern life. 352 pp. National author tour. Print ads. 40,000 print.
"Synopsis" by , The bestselling novel by the author of Arranged Marriage.
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