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18 May 2015

Review & Interview: 'The Saffron Trail' by Rosanna Ley (2015)

Once, there was a girl who loved saffron. She loved its secrets, its mystery, and best of all, she loved its hint of magic.

After the death of her beloved mother, Nell travels from rural Cornwall to the colour and chaos of Marrakech. Her marriage may be on the rocks, but exploring the heady delights of Moroccan cuisine could help her fulfil her dream of opening her own restaurant.

It's there she meets Amy - a young photographer trying to unravel the story behind her family's involvement in the Vietnam War. The two women develop a close friendship and discover a surprising connection between their own pasts.

This connection will take Nell and Amy on a journey to find their own 'saffron trail' - from the labyrinthine medina and bustle of Moroccan bazaars all the way back home to Cornwall and to the heart of their families' origins.

Rosanna Ley's newest novel 'The Saffron Trail' will be released on the 21st of May by Quercus and I must say it is a release which I have been quite excited about the past couple of weeks! Not too long ago I was contacted about 'The Saffron Trail' and I straight away loved both the cover (it's just stunning!) and the description of the story. I hadn't read any of Rosanna Ley's other novels and definitely looked forward to checking out her work. I was also lucky enough to get the chance to do an author Q&A with Rosanna herself, so be sure to scroll down to read her answers! 

Nell is still trying to come to terms with her mother's unexpected death a few months ago and her husband Callum doesn't seem to understand how difficult it is for her to say goodbye to her childhood home. When he surprises her with a birthday cookery course trip to Morocco, Nell isn't too sure at first but then decides the trip might help her with answering some questions about her mother. Photographer Amy also finds herself going to Morocco to take photos for an upcoming event at the Lyme Regis gallery she works at. She also wants to use the trip to Morocco to hopefully discover more about the disappearance of her beloved great-aunt's son Glenn. When Nell and Amy meet, they immediately hit it off and become friends. Morocco has a lot to offer the two women, but will it bring them the answers they are both looking for?

I was not familiar with author Rosanna Ley or her books before I got the chance to read 'The Saffron Trail', but I'm really glad I was introduced to her work because I really enjoyed this novel. The book focuses on several different storylines which were all interesting and captivating in their own way. There's Nell who is struggling in her marriage with her husband Callum and still has lots of questions about her recently deceased mother; Amy is trying to find a good balance between her work and private life, which is only made even trickier when a handsome stranger steps into it; and we meet Amy's great-aunt Lillian, who has been through a lot in her life and Amy wants to help her find some closure. I straight away warmed to the different characters and their stories and loved reading about them and seeing how it would all turn out.

The book offers a lot of information on and descriptions of Morocco and specifically its cuisine. This, on the one hand, really helped to set the scene and created a specific atmosphere, but some of the descriptions were quite lengthy and a bit repetitive. The book is also quite long (over 500 pages) and I think this could have been less by getting rid of some of these lengthy descriptive paragraphs. The book included quite a few twists which I did not see coming, which only made it even more of an enjoyable read which I didn't want to put down. I have high hopes for Rosanna Ley's other novels and can't wait to pick up another one of her works in the future. 'The Saffron Trail' is a truly captivating and well-written novel which I enjoyed from start to finish; a great read!
For more information about this book: / / Goodreads

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Author interview with Rosanna Ley!

I'm really excited to have had the chance to ask Rosanna Ley some questions about her newest release 'The Saffron Trail', which you can find below. Thanks so much, Rosanna, for being willing to take part in this short interview! :)

Can you tell us something about your new novel, ‘The Saffron Trail’?
The main characters in the novel are Nell and Amy who meet in one of those perfect and tranquil riads in Marrakech. Nell is learning about Moroccan cuisine and Amy is a photographer. They become friends and the novel follows their journey as they try to untangle their lives and their relationships and as they attempt to uncover the mysteries and strangely connected secrets of their pasts. In order to do this they travel to Essaouira, to a saffron farm in the foothills of the Atlas mountains and then back to Roseland in Cornwall and Lyme Regis in Dorset. At the heart of the mystery and of the story are the threads of red gold which are saffron...

Where did you get the inspiration for your novel? Is it in any way based on your own experiences?
The first inspiration came from saffron itself – from wanting to find out about how it is grown, how it has been used over the centuries, why it is such a ‘secret spice’ and why it is so much more expensive than gold... I visited Morocco because it is one of the best producers of saffron and realized that the labrynthine nature of the medina leading to the heart of the riad, echoed the tangled relationships and inner truths that I wanted to write about. And no, it’s not based on any of my own experiences, apart from things that happened while I was actually there in Morocco, researching the novel. For example, we were taken into the Jewish quarter in much the same way as Nell, with very similar results!

Can you tell us a bit more about the main characters, Amy and Nell?
Nell is a girl who loves saffron. She has always been very close to her mother and when her mother dies at the start of the novel, she feels incredibly lost and alone, which adds to the pressure on her marriage. Her ambition is to open her own restaurant and she would love to find out all the secrets that her mother has kept from her over the years and which she fears may now be lost to her. Amy seems fearless and independent to Nell, but in fact she too has her own vulnerabilities and is finding it hard to build confidence in her work as a photographer and to trust a man. Amy’s mother is busy and doesn’t realize how much Amy needs her time and attention; as a result Amy has grown very close to her great aunt Lillian. When Jake Tarrant visits the gallery where Amy works in Lyme, sparks fly...

There’s a great cast of supporting characters in the novel as well. Which character did you most enjoy writing?
I enjoyed them all in different ways. Lillian was great because she has such a deep history and so much has happened to her; she has suffered a great loss but is a survivor. Glenn was interesting because of his views and the decisions he made and because it allowed me to write a bit about the Vietnam war. But I think my favourite was Amy – she just flowed!

Did you do any particular research for parts of the book?
Lots! Places obviously – Marrakech, Essaouira, the Saffron Farm and waterfalls in the Atlas mountains, Roseland in Cornwall. The hippie trail and where people went at this time in the late sixties. The history of the Vietnam war. Moroccan design and cuisine. Bridport and the GIs during the second world war. And saffron.

Can you perhaps tell us something about your future plans? Are you perhaps already working on a next novel?
Yes! I am writing a novel set in Cuba and Bristol, working title ‘The Last Rumba’. One of the themes is power in relationships and how it can be used and abused. One of my characters is a magician and I have fallen ridiculously in love with him...

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Don’t be in a hurry. Take time to read, think, dream, plot, plan. Write not what you know but what you want to explore. Let the idea for your story compost. Create a space for it. Then write (every day if possible) as spontaneously as you can. Edit ruthlessly. Never give up.

What is the last book you read that you’d like to recommend to others?
‘We are all totally beside ourselves’ by Karen Joy Fowler. Cleverly structured, well written and thought provoking.

Which book could you not live without?
A book of poetry by John Donne (but these days it is mostly in my head).

And last but not least, if you had to describe ‘The Saffron Trail’ in just three words, which words would you pick?
Lost and Found.

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