Ladies Coupé … a review

I spent Christmas last year at my friend’s. M is an author herself, works in publishing and is one of the most prolific readers I know. So staying over at hers means picking something unusual off the copious bookshelves and coming back with a read or five. This time, I picked up Ladies Coupé by Anita Nair. I never got round to reviewing it at the time, so here goes.

This book follows a life-affirming journey of the protagonist – a young Indian woman named Akhila. She works in income tax, is 45 and single, and has just bought herself a one-way ticket to Kanyakumari. While she is trying to escape her stifling Tam-Brahm (slang for Tamil Brahmin – usually denotes a small-minded, conservative culture) life, she is also travelling towards something. On the train, she is sharing a coupé with five other women.

The reader is looking into a fishbowl in which these characters interact. Each woman has her own story and the narrative takes turn in acquainting us with each. Different themes are explored – physical love, the need (or not) for a man, happiness, and the expectations of society from a woman, amongst others,

I read this book over 3-4 days and it completely consumed me. It is deeper than it looks from the blurb, and explores many nuances of hidden emotion. What will we learn, and will we find any answers? Whilst the reader is drawn to Akhila, there is a remote-ness about her which is unsettling. This is a fine novel, and a great example of women’s literature from the subcontinent.

A personal note here: over the last few weeks of lockdown, a number of friends have casually mentioned this blog. I always think of it as rather personal (always have) and I’m flattered that you indulge me so… thank you.

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