Book Review: Lessons in Forgetting by Anita Nair


‘Lessons in Forgetting’ starts at an upper middle-class wine reception in Bangalore, where Anita Nair immediately immerses us in the world of yuppie Bangalore, mainly through Meera. Meera is a carefully groomed corporate wife with a successful career as a writer of cookbooks. Then one day her husband fails to come home after a party and she becomes responsible not just for her children but her mother and grandmother, and the running of Lilac House, their rambling old family home in Bangalore.

Enter Professor J.A. Krishnamurthy, or JAK, a renowned cyclone studies expert, on a very different trajectory in life. In a bedroom in his house lies his nineteen-year old daughter Smriti, left comatose after a vicious attack on her while she was on holiday at a beachside town. A wall of silence and fear surrounds the incident— the grieving father is helped neither by the local police, nor by her boyfriend in his search for the truth. Interspersed with the story of Professor Jak, who helps the reader unravel the mystery as to what happened to his traumatised daughter, this book is beautifully written, eye-opening, and thoroughly engaging.

Through a series of coincidences, Meera and JAK find their lives turning and twisting together, with the unpredictability and sheer inevitability of a cyclone. And as the days pass, fresh beginnings appear where there seemed to be only endings.  A father on a quest to unravel the mystery behind the tragedy - a woman seeks to forge a new identity after being abandoned by her husband. The book follows the journey of these two protagonists as they move towards their respective goals. The problems of midlife and relationships are explained so well. All the main characters are well described and the way they got together as the plot unfolds is awesome. It starts very slowly in the beginning, but the book gathers some pace by the middle and then it gets very intriguing and binding.

The last 100-odd pages are real nice and made reading this book even more worthwhile. Though the plot drags a bit in the middle, along with too many flashbacks, the eagerness to know what’s next keeps the momentum on. A sometimes quite sad story about grief, starting over and different types of love, these are familiar themes to fans of Anita Nair, themes which are skillfully woven through and around the different life stories of the larger tale. With a handful of characters, the reader is taken from one point of view to another throughout the book, a great tool used to make us understand the character's prejudices, expectations and (conflicting) interpretations of the slightest gesture.

The language is captivating; an unexpected twist in the story was very enjoyable. This book has also been made into a movie in 2012.


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