Hall of Fame Review: The Spice Box Letters by Eve Makis

Wednesday 18 March 2015
Title: The Spice Box Letters
Author: Eve Makis
Publisher: Sandstone Press
Publication Date: 19th March 2015
Pages: 320
ISBN: 9781910124086
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 5/5
Purchase: Amazon
Katerina inherits a scented, wooden spice box after her grandmother Mariam dies. It contains letters and a diary, written in Armenian. As she pieces together her family story, Katerina learns that Mariam's childhood was shattered by the Armenian tragedy of 1915.

Mariam was exiled from her home in Turkey and separated from her beloved brother, Gabriel, her life marred by grief and the loss of her first love. Dissatisfied and restless, Katerina tries to find resolution in her own life as she completes Mariam's story – on a journey that takes her across Cyprus and then half a world away to New York.

Miracles, it seems, can happen – for those trapped by the past, and for Katerina herself.

Having tried to write this review for ages now, I just can't seem to put my thoughts into words without giving away spoilers, or without feeling as if I haven't done the book justice. So I'm just going to write and hope it makes sense.

When Katerina's grandmother Mariam dies she leaves behind a wooden spice box, containing letters and a diary written in Armenian. Katerina travels to Cyprus where she meets Ara who starts to translate the diary for Katerina, revealing secrets that Mariam had kept to herself her whole life. A life that started with her being exiled from her home in Turkey and separated from her brother Gabriel, her life then marred by grief and the loss of her first love.

The Spice Box Letters is being published in 2015 to mark the centenary year of the Armenian genocide. I am ashamed to admit that I don't know all that much about that time, and whilst the book was difficult reading in places, it was absolutely necessary to highlight the pain and suffering these people went through, and makes the emotional connection that I felt as a reader to these characters all the more powerful. The characters in this book are fictional, but the basis for the story lies in fact and the story has so much more of an impact because of that. It is an incredibly realistic read, the research having gone into the book evident on every page, but it never felt like a history lesson, though I learnt a lot whilst reading this thought-provoking book. This is a timely and important release highlighting and making sure people never forget about this tragedy.

With mostly short chapters in the beginning we go back and forth between time periods quite often, but I found this worked very well, especially in the beginning as we were just getting to know Katerina. We would have extracts from Mariam's diary, before quickly moving back to the present day. Mariam's story was quite difficult to read in places, so not having the whole thing told to you at once helped break the story up, and allowed us to see Katerina's reaction, and the impact that the diary began to have on her own life. I wish I could talk about all of the characters in this book, but that would definitely ruin the story for readers, as this is a book you should all discover for yourselves. It's sad how different the story could have turned out for certain characters but that's why the story is so believable, with so many families torn apart perhaps living around the world unaware of where their siblings, parents or friends were after this awful tragedy.

Eve Makis is a truly wonderful writer, and the book is beautifully descriptive when Eve is talking about Cyprus, which is my favourite place in the whole world. She really captures the setting, and I loved her descriptions of the food consumed by her characters. I was practically salivating reading about all the foods that I love so much. On the other hand her harrowing descriptions of the genocide, the horrible deaths of the characters, and the emotional turmoil those who survived went through left a lump in my throat, and towards the end of the book tears streamed down my face I'm not ashamed to admit. The book is an emotional read, but there's also positives to be taken from it as well. For me it's not to take life for granted, to appreciate the loved ones that we do have in our lives, and in the case of Mariam, I would perhaps say it's about finding the bravery to share those secrets you might be hiding, before it's too late, as it was for Mariam.

I'm not very good with words, so I'll just share this quote from Eve's website which I feel explains what the book is essentially about, better than I can!

I would like to think of the book as a spice box, not only peppered by tragedy, but also evoking a distinct sense of culture through food, folklore and customs, an attempt to balance a dark, turbulent past with a lighter, more hopeful present. It is essentially a story about intimate family secrets, slowly unraveled and the enduring quality of love.

The Spice Box Letters is probably one of the best books that I have ever read, and if it doesn't make my Top 5 Books of the Year, I'll be very surprised. I honestly can't recommend this book enough, it is absolutely incredible and I urge anybody who is reading this review not to simply add it to your TBR and then forget about it as more books are released but buy it now, start it today, and then tell all your family and friends to do so as well. Some books just deserve to be read, and The Spice Box Letters is one such book.

With thanks to Sandstone Press for the review copy. 



  1. Cant wait to read this after this great review have this book on preorder so will read the weekend

  2. Fabulous review Eve Makis xx your little friend and I are so pleased for you! Can't wait to read it 😊


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