Posted in Food and Drink, My Bibliothèque, Romance

{ Book Review } – Alphabet Soup for Lovers by Anita Nair!

Alphabet Soup for Lovers is not a collection of recipes. Nor is it a riveting tale of two ill-fated lovers who get together after a long struggle, sacrifices or a display of strong character. For me, Alphabet Soup for Lovers felt like tucking in a bowl of warm, ghee laced khichdi, occasionally biting into a whole peppercorn or a piece of mango pickle accompanied by a rather limp, oil soaked papad which should have brought it some texture and flavours into the khichdi but ended up rather being a nuisance.

Book 4 / 36 – Alphabet Soup for Lovers by Anita Nair is not a collection of recipes. Nor is it a riveting tale of two ill-fated lovers who get together after a long struggle, sacrifices or a display of strong character. For me, Alphabet Soup for Lovers felt like tucking into a bowl of warm, ghee laced khichdi, occasionally biting into a whole peppercorn or a piece of mango pickle accompanied by a rather limp, oil soaked papad which should have brought it some texture and flavours into the khichdi but ended up rather being a nuisance. The story begins with the narrator and my favourite character in the book, Komathi, expressing her frustration at not being able to pick up the English Alphabet. She is an old retainer of the female protagonist, Lena, who lives in the idyllic Nilgiris and is described to be in a sort of an emotionless relationship with her husband KK. In contrast, the Komathi's character is very well etched. And the food metaphors that she uses are endearing. She decides to associate each letter with a fruit, vegetable or dish. That way she will never forget it. As she winds her way through alphabets, she is mostly an impassive witness to the illicit attraction that springs up between Lena and Shoola Pani. As she goes through this beautiful journey from A for Arisi Appalam, choosing the humble Appalam over her granddaughter's A for Apple and makes her way to the calm and soothing end with Z for Zigarthanda ( I know, it starts with J but Komathi chooses Jigarthanda for Z ) her back story unravels revealing a surprise, an unrequited love, and explains why her thoughts are what they are. What I did not like was how hollow the rest of the characters and the stories sound in the book. I found them dull because nothing explains why a character behaves the way she/he behaves. Not their thoughts, not their words and neither a third person assesment of their behaviour, like Komathi's thoughts about them explains the story development. Looks like the author didn't heed Komathi's advice and fried the Arisi Appalams in smoking hot oil, leaving the Appalam uncooked on the inside and sticking to the reader's teeth. Detailed review on the blog, link in bio!

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The story begins with the narrator and the favourite character in the book, Komathi, expresses her frustration at not being able to pick up the English Alphabet. Komathi is an old retainer of the female protagonist, Lena, who lives in the idyllic Nilgiris and is described to be in a sort of a stoic relationship with her husband KK. The Hows, Whys and Whats of the relationship are pretty much unexplored. In contrast, the Komathi’s character is very well etched. And the food metaphors that she uses are endearing. Describing the difficulty she faces in grasping the English Alphabet as taught by her granddaughter, Selvi, she says,

But, I am a numbskull. My head is like a dried up coconut… the brains have lost the ability to absorb.

Her similes and metaphors get only more refined and relevant as the story progresses. On Selvi’s advice decides to associate each letter with a fruit, vegetable or dish. That way she will never forget it. So, as she winds her way through alphabets, she is mostly an impassive witness to the illicit attraction that springs up between Lena and Shoola Pani, a famous actor from the plains who comes to their plantation cottage after a meltdown seeking a clean break from his stardom and stress.

Now, not going too much into who their love affair develops, let’s get into what I liked about the book and what I didn’t. I love love love Komathi and her back story. As she goes through this beautiful journey from A for Arisi Appalam, choosing the homemade Appalam over Selvi’s A for Apple  and makes her way to the calm and soothing end with Z for Zigarthanda ( I know, it starts with J but Komathi chooses Jigarthanda for Z and I will stick to her ❤ ), her back story unravels revealing a surprise, an unrequited love, and explains why her thoughts are what they are. And what’s more beautiful is, they don’t invoke pity, instead they help you understand Komathi better. Around “I” for Inji, she makes impassioned arguments, albeit to herself, about what should Lena be doing to set her lacklustre life with KK in right order.

What I did not like was how hollow the rest of the characters and the stories sound in the book. I mean, I found them dull because nothing explains why a character behaves the way she/he behaves. Not their thoughts, not their words and neither a third person assesment of their behaviour, like Komathi’s thoughts about them explains the story development.

Looks like the author didn’t heed Komathi advice and fried the Arisi Appalams in smoking hot oil, leaving the Appalam uncooked on the inside and sticking to the reader’s teeth.

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