The Saffron Road | Granta

The Saffron Road

Christine Toomey

A brief meeting with a Buddhist nun in India made a deep impression on Christine Toomey. It sent her on a two-year, 60,000-mile odyssey to learn more about the contemporary women choosing in their thousands to become part of a long tradition of female spirituality that stretches back through the centuries and now embraces the radical possibility that the next Dalai Lama could be female.

In The Saffron Road, Toomey follows in the footsteps of earlier generations of Buddhist nuns to trace the routes by which the philosophy has spread from a solitary order in a remote area of India in the 5th century BC, via 1950s San Francisco where Zen was popularised by the Beat generation, to the globally-renowned practitioners of mindfulness of today. Beginning her journey in the Himalayas, close to the birthplace of the Buddha, Toomey travels from Nepal, to India, through Burma, Japan and on to North America and Europe, along the way visiting contemporary nunneries to meet the women who practise there. Amongst those she talks to are a group of “kung fu” nuns, an acclaimed novelist, a princess, a concert violinist, a former BBC journalist, and a one-time Washington political aide. Through these conversations, the daily reality of the Buddhist existence is gradually revealed, together with the diverse spiritual paths leading these women towards nirvana.

Combining travelogue, history, interviews and personal reflection, The Saffron Road opens the door to a rarely glimpsed world of ritual, discipline and enlightenment.

  • Published: 07/04/2016
  • Paperback
  • ISBN: 9781846274930
  • 129x20mm, 384 pages

Rich and compelling... [a book] with the power to inspire a new perspective on how to live, how to view those around us, and how to find deep and lasting happiness in what we already possess

Financial Times

Like all memorable nonfiction, [this book] is about storytelling-and Christine Toomey is a masterful storyteller. What emerges, Chaucer-like, is a cycle of stories within a story that irresistibly propels readers forward. The sum is even greater than the parts and a deeply moving experience

Mark Kurlansky, author, The Food of a Younger Land

There are lessons for life on every step of The Saffron Road. [Toomey] shows that philosophies are sometimes best understood from a suitcase, writing as she learns and learning as she writes. Fortunate is the reader who follows

Peter Stothard, author, Alexandria, The Last Nights of Cleopatra

The Author

CHRISTINE TOOMEY has been a foreign correspondent and feature writer for the Sunday Times for more than 20 years, reporting extensively from Latin America, the Middle East and throughout Europe. She has investigated the sinking of Russia’s Kursk nuclear submarine and the mass murder of women in Guatemala, reported from Kosovo and Bosnia on the fate of children born to women raped during the Balkans wars, tracked down a wanted Nazi war criminal, and lived for a week with the two wives of a Hamas politician in the West Bank. She has received several prizes for her journalism, including two Amnesty International Awards for Magazine Story of the Year.

More about the author →