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Best Books by Anita Nair

Anita Nair is one of India’s most acclaimed authors and she has written over 17 books. She has won numerous awards, including The Sahithya Academy Award, Ficci Flo Women Achievers Award and the Arch of Excellence Award in Literature by the All India Achievers Conference. I’m going to pick some of her bestsellers – my favorites.

Anita Nair Books to Read

Ladies Coupé

“What is it about marriage that makes it possible for a man and a woman to mesh their lives, dreams and even their thoughts in such a complete fashion?”

Ladies Coupe is the story of six women traveling together in a ladies’ coupe of an Indian railway train, each sharing their life stories.

45-years-old Akhilandeshwari aka Akhila, an Income Tax Office Clerk and sole breadwinner for her family, boards a train for a chance of liberation and freedom. She is searching for answers to her life’s purpose. When she meets five other women, all from different walks of life, and hear their stories, her thoughts take her back to the past.

Anita Nair poses some significant questions to the readers ~ Can a woman live alone, without a man? Does a woman need a man to feel complete? What does society have to do with the way a woman chooses to live her life?

All the six stories gel well together and as a woman, I felt empowered. Now, that says something because I was hooked on to the lives of these women and their struggles against patriarchy and rigid society. The author was triumphant in creating an emotional connection with the reader.

One of the important takeaways from this book is that you needn’t be apologetic or guilty for not living a life according to someone else’s expectations. “Once you stop worrying about what the world will think of you, your life will become that much easier to live.” 

Mistress

“Baggage, I suppose, none of us are free of it and yet, if we were, we wouldn’t be who we are.”

At a glance, Mistress is a story of adultery. But don’t take it lightly. It is one of the best books written by Anita Nair and I’m surprised Mistress isn’t that popular like Ladies Coupe.

Christopher Stewart is a travel writer and he sets foot in a resort in Kerala, India intending to know more about Koman, a famous Kathakali dancer. Koman is Radha’s uncle and from their first meeting, Radha is excited and thrilled by Chris’s enigmatic personality. However, there is one person who is simply disinterested in Chris – Radha’s husband Shyam who is also the owner of the resort.

Radha finds herself falling for Chris and realizes that her husband is ambitious and lacking in taste and tact. Shyam, on the other hand, is helplessly watching the growing intimacy between his wife and the foreigner. Koman, like a mature adult, keeps his thoughts and emotions to himself and lets the trio figure out the mess by themselves.

Such a simple plot but when combined with the Nine Rasas (Navrasas) or emotions/expressions, it is truly an experience to cherish. The Navrasas being Sringaram (Love, Beauty), Hasyam (Mirth, Laughter), Raudram (Anger, Fury), Karunyam (Compassion), Bhibatsam (Disgust, Aversion), Bhayanakam (Fear, Dread), Viram (Strenght, Heroism), Adbhutam (Wonder, Amazement), Shantam (Peace).

The mood of the story is portrayed through these expressions and the way the author draws parallel is out the world. She also nails the character development as the story progresses and one will be in a position to not be able to take sides where the trio is concerned.

Radha’s troubled relationship with her father results in a forced marriage with Shyam. She thus finds fault with Shyam who appears materialistic and insensitive. The spirited woman that she is, she finds herself drawn to the passion Chris exudes. Only, in the end, does she realize she is burdened and tied down in this relationship, just like her marriage.

A brilliant tale of passion, love, lust, longing, losing and life, it is also about searching your true inner feelings and also self-discovery.

Eating Wasps

“On the day I killed myself, it was clear and bright.”

When a book has an opening line like that, you imagine it to be a thriller. However, it is not necessarily so.

An award-winner author Shrilakshmi commits suicide. She lives on as a ghost on a piece of bone of her index finger, which was picked up from the embers of her pyre, by her lover Markose. The bone is discovered much later, enabling Shrilakshmi’s ghost to observe the lives of many women and opening the pandora’s box.

This isn’t a so-called horror/ghost story. The book revolves around social issues – suppression, violation, abuse and complex emotions – scandal, heartbreak, fear, and loss. The book was a disappointment to many loyal Nair fans because as they say, ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’. It may not be a 5-star read but you can always pick it up for its unique approach.

The Better Man

“Perhaps, what I seek now is a friend like I have never had before. Someone to share a smoke and my thoughts with. Someone who will see life with the same eyes as I do; experience the same lift of spirit when mine soars. Someone whose destiny is woven with mine even though we are bound by neither blood nor any other tie.”

The Better Man is Anita Nair’s first novel that revolves around Mukundan, a fifty-two-year-old retired government employee who returns to his village in Kerala.

He is still haunted by his past – the expectations laid down by his domineering father who has bullied him throughout his childhood and beyond. Mukundan’s aim in life is to prove his mettle to his father, who still holds power over him.

There are lots of interesting characters in this book and unlike women-centric themes, this book as a male protagonist. I wish the women in the book had the space to shine through more. Again, not a 5-star read but it shows the sublime life in a village and the value of relationships.

Other honorable mentions of Anita Nair’s work: Cut Like Wound and Lessons in Forgetting

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Best Indian Woman Authors to Read Anita Nair Books

Anita Nair’s books are like poetry with vivid descriptions. She brings out the soul of Kerala through her lyrical prose. She makes me miss home- that’s the power of her words.

~ Her Loyal Reader

Have you read Anita Nair? Which of her works is your favorite? Let me know.

Read these for #ReadingWithMuffy March Prompt: A book about a woman by a woman

My theme for the A to Z Challenge this year is ‘Celebrating the Bibliophile in me’, where I will be sharing the books, authors and fictional characters that I love, loathe and tolerate.
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A as in Anita Nair

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