Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Review: Alphabet Soup for Lovers by Anita Nair.

Book: Alphabet Soup for Lovers

Author: Anita Nair

Pages: 200

Read On: Hardback copy

How Long it Took Me To Read: 1 day

Plot Summary: Lena Abraham knows that love can end in only one way - disappointment. Her marriage to KK is perfect precisely because she is not in love with him, and their life on a tea plantation in the picturesque Anamalai hills is idyllic. Then, one rainy morning, a man arrives to take up temporary residence in the homestay they run. Shoola Pani is south Indian cinema's heartthrob, an actor in flight from his own superstardom, and the last thing he is looking for is emotional entanglement. But when Lena and he meet, something flares between them that neither could have anticipated. She becomes his Lee and he her Ship, and the place they inhabit Arcadia. Told partly from the point of view of Komathi, whose own relationship with Lena is fraught with buried truths from the past, this searing tale of unexpected passion and adultery reaffirms the magical power of love in all our lives.

General Thoughts: I love Anita Nair's writing and her story-telling styles and of course the stories she tells are always intense and wonderfully crafted. I've read a few books by her and I've liked all of them (mostly)--- Ladies Coupe, A Better Man, Cut Like Wound and Lessons in Forgetting. I saw this book on Amazon recently and wanted it immediately. I read it on a Sunday and it was a great way to spend a day immersed in this world.

Things I Liked: 

1. As always I loved Anita Nair's writing.

2. The book is told from three perspectives- the two lovers, Lena and Shoola Pani, and the old cook - Komathi,who is learning the English alphabet and is a quiet observer of this love affair. All three of these perspectives are interesting and add their own flavour to the narrative.

3. The book apart from focusing on a love affair, also deals with Komathi learning the English alphabet. She does so by giving each alphabet a food so as to help in her learning, her being a cook, this is the easiest way to memorise a foreign language. So each chapter comes with a food item or ingredient mentioned and illustrated. Ah! I loved this utterly charming detail.

4. Komathi and her story and her life and really her take on life was for me the best part of the book. I wanted to spend more time with her and find out her life story, which was being handed to us in small instalments. She was a delightful and insightful and wise character to get to know.

5. The love affair though a little rushed and some might say even 'insta-love' still rang true. The author did a fantastic job of making it seem real and genuine. The feelings Lena and Shoola Pani feel never seemed cheesy or vulgar.

6. The setting of this book-- a tea plantation in the hills-- is something I love. My family owns Tea Gardens near Darjeeling and it is a world I know well and understand and more than that it's a  world I love and reading about it always makes me happy.

7. The world building and atmosphere building in this book is fantastic.

8. I also liked that the marriage between Lena and KK wasn't demonised in any way. They were moderately happy yet not in love or brimming with passion. In so many ways it was like marriages we see around us.

9. Throughout the book Komathi's life is shrouded in mystery and we hear of her great love and we know it didn't work out but we don't know why, this was a mystery (so to speak) I wanted to find out and I kept turing pages in hope of finding out what happened but feared we wouldn't find out. Thankfully, all questions were answered and we weren't left hanging.

10. This was a wonderful little book that I happily read over a course of a Sunday and wanted to eat some South Indian food as a result. :) Be warned this book will make you crave some South Indian grubs.

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. Shoola Pani is not the best developed character. We know so little about him and his life and his history.

2. Ditto with KK. He remains a very minor player in this book.

3. There are so many Tamil words used in this book and yet there isn't a glossary to be found. I was stumped in so many places in this book and would have really appreciated a glossary.

4. The love affair is so instantaneous and intense it seemed a bit much when I look back on the story.

5. The book ends a little abruptly. And some might have an issue with it.

Rating: 3.5/5

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