There was a time when I used to believe Anita Nair could do no wrong. I have enjoyed her writing as much as her characters have enjoyed each others’ company. I believe Idris is the only book by her that I’ve not read, and the ones I have, I’ve treated with a fangirl-like devotion.
Alphabet Soup for Lovers, on the other hand, could have been ghost written by an amateur.
In many ways – no, actually – in every way, ASFL is an abridged copy of the far superior Mistress. Those who know me know that Mistress ranks high on my Top 10 list. ASFL disappointed me in more ways than one. Reading it felt like someone was trying to copy Nair’s style, and plagiarize her work. I know how bizarre that sounds, given that the book is published in her name! But I cannot help but compare:
Mistress is the story of a kathakali artist, Koman, who tells us his story while watching his niece get entangled in an extra marital affair with the man who has come to interview him. He uses the nine forms of expression used in the dance form to narrate the story.
ASFL is the story of a cook, Komathi, who tells us her story (much less fascinating than Koman’s) while watching the woman she brought up as her own daughter get entangled in an extra martial affair with a man who has come to live in the homestay run by her and her husband. The cook uses the 26 letters of the alphabet to narrate the story.
ASFL is the alternative ending of Mistress. With only half of its beauty.
While the nine forms blended in a seamless metaphor in Mistress, the letters do nothing at all for ASFL. And while Mistress had complex characters that developed throughout, ASFL has characters out of a mould. They’re shells. Empty shells. Forgettable. Crumbleable.
Nair has not explored her full potential as an author, and in fact has done injustice to herself. The book reads like something she wrote on a whim – like a filler.
Disappointing, coming from Anita Nair, and thoroughly ordinary.