SAFFRON SKIES by Lesley Lokko


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A family saga spanning three continents and 30 years.

Self-made tycoon Max Sall has created two European families as disastrous and dysfunctional as his business empire is prosperous. In Rome, Max’s beautiful mistress Francesca dreams that their illegitimate daughter Paola will grow up to marry well. In London, wife Angela communicates with only the maids and her bottle of brandy, while son Kieran steals thousands of pounds to support his heroin habit. The most promising member of the Sall family is Max and Angela’s ambitious, headstrong daughter Amber, who craves a normal family life. Lokko (Sundowners, not reviewed) follows all of the above, as well as Amber’s best friends Becky and Madeline, for nearly three decades as they travel the world and find themselves entangled in drugs, money, politics, illness and even incest. Amber becomes a journalist and takes a professional and personal interest in a project her father is pursuing in Mali. Becky, a middling London artist, breaks off her engagement and follows her boyfriend (Amber’s ex) to Zimbabwe, where she finds meaning in a business project but then is savagely raped. Madeline, a doctor mourning the sudden loss of her first love, goes to war-torn Sarajevo and then to New York, where she marries and has a son. In one of the only moments that unite Max’s two families, Kieran and Paola collaborate on a nightclub venture, which ends in calamity. Half-sisters and archrivals Amber and Paola both end up in Africa married to prominent international figures, but while Amber becomes the first lady of Mali, Paola disgraces herself by having an illegitimate child. The author gives even minor characters lengthy backstories in this saga; it becomes exhausting, but Lokko manages to weave everything together competently enough.

Longwinded, but ultimately satisfying.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 2006
ISBN: 0-312-35228-X
Page count: 624pp
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2006