Monday, August 16, 2010

Lessons in Forgetting - Anita Nair - Book Review

I am a big fan of Anita Nair's writing. I think she writes very well and can draw you into the story by the sheer artistry and richness of her writing. So I am always looking out for her new books and was happy to lay my hands on her latest 'Lessons In Forgetting'. I got a hard bound version, something I buy rarely.

'Lessons in Forgetting' (published by Harper Collins, priced at Rs. 399, 329 pages) begins with Meera, a cookbook writer, seemingly living the life of her dreams, in a fine party with the page 3 types. A successful corporate honcho for a husband, daughter in the IIT, an adorable son, a lovely old house in Bangalore, in which she and her family live with her mother and her grandmother. However, as the party progresses and she has a couple of glasses of wine and flirts that wee bit, she finds that her husband is missing and she has to hitch a ride back home with a complete stranger. Soon she finds out that he husband has left her for good, feeling stifled (she cannot understand why), more likely driven by his inability to make the women sell that house and give it for development. Meera suddenly finds herself shaken out of her dream life and wakes up to the fact that there is no source of money to run the household. Looking for a job, she lands one as a research assistant to a Professor of Cyclones from the University of Florida, Jak or Kichu, who is here on his own mission.

Jak's story is vastly more interesting. A divorce from his wife in America, a rebellious teenaged girl who comes to India, and something dreadful that happens to her which a guilty Jak sets out to find out more about. Though Meera herself is an interesting character and one you can easily identify, especially in that single woman's role, where men hit on her and she wonders if she should allow them to, I was really drawn into the Professor's story with his daughter. In fact I would not have minded if the story began and ended with them.

Anita Nair once again leaves me gaping at the richness of her writing, the use of the most appropriate words, the ease with which she shifts from one mood to another, the ease with which she describes sex (no writer in India comes even close to her there), the depth of her understanding of her characters and what drives them. For example, Nikhil, her son, is the one who discovers all the sordid events in her life and absorbs some of the shock for her. And each act of guilt is followed almost immediately by an act of severe punishment in all cases - Meera, Kichu, Nina, Smriti, even Chinnathayi. When you are done with the book, you certainly feel like you know them all well, you want to meet them and share their joys and sorrows with them.

I am glad that it ended with hope. However, as I always say, Anita Nair's best book is yet to come.


Raj Achu said...

This book has been made into a movie in english with the same title by a production house in bangalore ,Arowana Studios Ltd.Filim is under post production final stages.

Unknown said...

did u watch the movie?
is tat a similar version of the novel as well? hw is her new fiction cut like wound??

Harimohan said...

No Sumy. I have not yet watched the movie but I intend to the moment it hits the theatres in Hyderabad. Now that it has won the National Award for best film in English I am sure many more would want to watch it. I thoroughly enjoyed her new novel 'Cut Like Wound' which I have reviewed on my blog as well. (