The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Love and Food in Iran by Jennifer Klinec.
Twelve, Hachett Book Group, New York, 2014. My edition 2017.
Memoir, 230 pages including extras.
Jennifer Klinec is a fearless jet-setter, leaving her London life behind to explore the culinary arts of every corner of the world. This book is the story of her month in Iran, wearing a headscarf, finding locals who will let her cook with them, and unexpectedly falling in love.
This was so random. I had a long afternoon and wanted a book, so I grabbed this one, but then ended up reading another book that I already had instead. It sat on the shelf for a while – I have to be honest that the subtitle reminded me of Eat, Pray, Love which was a DNF for me. And there were some legitimate concerns about how Klinec would portray Iran, since she’s an outsider, a Canadian with Serbo-Croation roots living in London.
However, once I got started, I enjoyed this book. Klinec lays everything bare. She is brutally honest yet insightful, and not afraid to make herself, or her loved ones look bad. There were points where I disliked Klinec as well as others in the story, but I did feel that she was telling the truth as objectively as she could, given that she was a major participant. When she’s viewing things through her own unique lens, she’s generally up front about the perspective.
I am the pickiest eater, but Klinec’s descriptions of food (even foods I would never try) made me hungry. There was generally a nice balance between the descriptions of food and the love aspects of the novel. Although I found it a fairly fast read, this is definitely not a warm and fuzzy feel-good novel.
There is a lot of tension in the story from the balance of sweet and savory in the food to Klinec’s mere presence in Iran as a 31-year-old, unmarried Western woman conducting business. Yet since that business is learning how to cook, a job often seen as women’s work, there is a curious tension in the kitchen as well. Klinec is a modern woman obsessed with learning how to make traditional dishes down to the smallest details.
Since covers often sway me, I must take a moment to discuss the cover, because I can’t decide if I like it. At times I think it perfectly conveys the story (the light and dark, bright and dull, traditional and modern), while at others I feel like it is too busy and cluttered (get rid of some of the squiggles). Obviously I bought it while feeling the first way. What do you think of the cover?
The title initially perplexed me. It is eventually explained (a cultural concept not practiced in the west) but not until chapter 12, halfway through the book. If the main thing intriguing you about this book is the unusual title, that’s a long time to wait for a payoff.
A warning for the squeamish – slaughterhouses are visited, meat is butchered and prepared. The descriptions are vivid at times. Klinec also talks quite openly about sex, extramarital affairs, and experiences that occurred in Iran. Her viewpoint is I suppose very modern and urban. She is not purposefully offensive to Islam, but there were points in the book that I don’t think I’d be comfortable with if I were Muslim.
For some reason I keep comparing this to graphic novel memoirs, perhaps because the imagery was so vivid I felt like it was a graphic novel. But generally speaking, I think if you liked Persepolis or Reading Lolita in Tehran, you will probably like this memoir. I would also recommend it to adult foodies who aren’t too squeamish to hear the details of where their food came from.