Friday 8 July 2011

Mistress by Anita Nair

When I borrowed this book from my friend, I wasn't really sure what to expect from it. I just wanted to read a different kind book and was really attracted towards the cover page of this book. The cover page here is the picture of the face of a Kathakali dancer. Kathakali is an integral part of the book with each chapters beginning with an explanation of the one of the navarassas (nine emotions/expressions) and then the author goes on to draw an analogy from life for all of them. The story is set in Kerala and which is the mother land of this form of dance.

Kathakali  is a highly stylized classical Indian dance-drama noted for the attractive make-up of characters, elaborate costumes, detailed gestures and well-defined body movements presented in tune with the anchor playback music and complementary percussion. It originated in the country's present day state of Kerala, India during the 17th century and has developed over the years with improved looks, refined gestures and added themes besides more ornate singing and precise drumming.(Source:Wikipedia).

The story is about 4 people, a famous Kathakali dancer-Koman, her neice, Radha and her husband Shyam and about Christopher, who is a travel writer and has come to Kerala to interview Koman.

For the plot of the book, I am quoting the snyopsis from the back of the book:

When travel writer Christopher Stewart arrives at a riverside resort in Kerala to meet Koman, Radha's uncle and a famous kathakali dancer, he enters a world of masks and repressed emotions. From their first meeting, both Radha and her uncle are drawn to the enigmatic young man with his cello and his incessant questions about the past. The triangle quickly excludes Shyam, Radha's husband, who can only watch helplessly as she embraces Chris with a passion that he has never been able to draw from her. Also playing the role of observer-participant is Koman; his life story, as it unfolds, captures all the nuances and contradictions of the relationships being made--and unmade--in front of his eyes.

When I first started reading the book, I felt it was going to be a difficult read but soon I let go all my apprehensions and then I started enjoying the book. I won't say it was a light read but it was definately enlightening. It is an intense novel full of deep, mysterious, complex emotions that are so true to life. The story of each character unravels slowly and in the end culminates into a passionate story of life. Each of the character in this novel has a passion in life and in some way or other it decides the course of their life, and hence it becomes a demanding mistress. That is what the title of the book signifies.

It is a kind of book that can be re-read and there will still be new things to discover. I will definately recommend it to anyone looking for a serious read by an Indian author. To know more about the author and her work visit

Thank you for stopping by. Cheers!


  1. I have this book, waiting to be read.

    Will pick it soon! Nice review :)

  2. I have really thought about reading this author, but right now honestly I really cannot read difficult reads. Something that is light and fast that makes me feel good, that is all I can handle really.

    But I am sure I will read this one in the future, I am intrigued by your review. Thank you


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