Posted in Fiction, My Bibliothèque, Women's Fiction

{ Book Review ) – Ladies Coupé by Anita Nair !

I find rating books in stars a little difficult these days. Probably because I don’t have a clearly etched benchmark of what a 5-star rated book should be like. It happened that way with this book. This is my second book by Anita Nair, the first being Alphabet Soup for Lovers. Parts of this book were brilliant, especially the initial 150 pages or so. It begins with Akhilandeswari, a 45-year-old, single woman who works as an income tax clerk, buys a one-way ticket to Kanyakumari. When she steps into the Coupé ( this Coupé thing itself sounds so romantic and beautifully fictional because I have never travelled by a Coupe ), she meets and talks to six women, all from different walks of life, and listens to their life stories as narrated by them. In parallel, her thoughts take us through how she has become what she has become.

(10/36 of 2017 ) FR – Ladies Coupé by Anita Nair. I find rating books in stars a little difficult these days. Probably because I don't have a clearly etched benchmark of what a 5-star rated book should be like. It happened that way with this book. Parts of this book were brilliant, especially the initial 150 pages or so. It begins with Akhilandeswari, a 45 year old, single woman who works as an income tax clerk, buys a one way ticket to Kanyakumari. When she steps into the Coupé ( this Coupé thing itself sounds so romantic and beautifully fictional because I have never travelled by a Coupe ), she meets and talks to six women, all from different walks of life, and listens to their life stories as narrated by them. In parallel, her thoughts take us through how she has become what she has become. Her childhood and the part which describes a weekend from when her Appa was alive is the part of the book I didn't want to move on from. I silently judged her mother, just like Akhila did, from dissolving her existence in the pool that was nothing but her husband. I am not particularly impressed with the characters of Akhila's family, but they are quite realistic. But some parts of the book are magical. It is probably the hapless romantic in me but it was like I stood on the other side of the curtain of steam that rose from a mound of white, glistening grains of rice her mother served her father on a plantain leaf, every Sunday. Here I quote the author: "Piping Hot, fragrant with the alchemy of steam, spices and Amma's devotion to the man who, for her sake and the children's', lunched on curd rice and a slice of lime pickle, six days a week and never complained." A few paragraphs later, I am smiling in approval as Amma makes fried, succulent, half moon Kathirikai Bajjis for Tiffin but doesn't mix filter coffee decoction until she has the Kesari ready to serve. [ Continued in the comment below ]

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Her childhood and a weekend from when her Appa was alive is the part of the book I didn’t want to move on from. I silently judged her mother, just like Akhila did, from dissolving her existence in the pool that was nothing but her husband. I am not particularly impressed with the characters of Akhila’s family, but they are quite realistic. But some places are magical. It is probably the hapless romantic in me but it was like I stood on the other side of the curtain of steam that rose from a mound of white, glistening grains of rice her mother served her father on a plantain leaf, every Sunday. Here I quote the author: “Piping Hot, fragrant with the alchemy of steam, spices and Amma’s devotion to the man who, for her sake and the children’s, lunched on curd rice and a slice of lime pickle, six days a week and never complained.” A few paragraphs later, I am smiling in approval as Amma makes fried, succulent, half moon Kathirikai Bajjis for Tiffin but doesn’t mix filter coffee decoction until she has the Kesari ready to serve.Call me a glutton, but reading this made me so happy that day.

I erupted in rage as the Tamil teacher makes her learn Thiruvalluvar’s couplets by heart but ridicules little Akhila for reading Wordsworth. I don’t mean the other stories are not worth reading. They are. They are stories of how women seize control of a portion of their lives and steer things towards the course they choose. Yes, I can nod and clap and approve of everything these six characters do, and without belittling them, it is all very admirable too. But six stories get a little too much for me. Because like Akhila thinks, somewhere midway, in the book, there is no point in trying to define the reality of someone’s life, Akhila’s or your own, by prying through the threads of several lives, look for similar threads and pick at them to justify a course of action or a choice. All the stories are good in their own merit, as short stories, but they are forcibly gelled/glued together. Even if the narrator doesn’t draw too many parallels from the women’s lives in order to make sense of her decisions, it was a bit of a drag. I approached the stories are detached short stories once I reached about half way in the book. But I would still refrain from calling this a bad book. I may not have found it profound or anything, but it was overall a pleasant read, thanks to the beautiful scenes the author manages to create throughout the course of the book. A few of the other ones that I liked were the sections on Amma’s love for Kolam designs and the portion where Akhila in a way rebels against the TamBram taboo surrounding eggs and how she falls in love with the boiled egg. The joy she experiences comes more from the feeling of liberty more than the taste of egg I believe. This is my second book by Anita Nair and I will keep picking up her books in the future visits to the bookstore.

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