Book Review: The Lilac House by Anita Nair

26 Jun

Genre: Literary fiction

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Pub date: 24 April 2012

Source: Publisher via NetGalley


Meera’s happy life as a corporate wife  comes crashing down when her husband leaves her and her two teenaged children. Heart-broken, Meera has to find a way to not only take care of her children, but also come to terms with her husband’s betrayal and her own life. She is also responsible for taking care of her mother and grandmother and a crumbling old family home in Bangalore.

Professor J.A. Krishnamurthy (aka Jak aka Kitcha) has recently come back from Florida to Bangalore to take care of his catatonic 19-year old daughter, who was the victim of a tragic accident. But he is plagued by her condition and desperate to find out what really happened to her in a small town by the sea.

Meera and Jak live a few streets away in Bangalore and slowly their lives intertwine.


A review that shows you more about the reviewer than the book is a deficient one. But in this case, you must bear with me as I gush about a book that I fell in love with and could not get enough of. And since this is a purely subjective opinion, my reasons for loving this book perhaps have less to do its literary merit and more with how close to home it is for me. It’s not so much the characters that are close to home, but the setting itself.

Not that the book falls short of literary merit. Nair has used two very interesting devices to tell this story. Meera, the corporate housewife, compares herself to the Greek goddess Hera. She describes herself as Zeus’ neglected wife as he goes on to cavort with other women. She also describes many of the people in their social circle as mythological characters.

Jak is an expert on cyclones. Jak’s chapters describe life as a cyclone in its different stages. Excerpts from Jak’s book preface some of the chapters and give readers a preview of what it about to happen. And these are the two literary devices that provide the framework for this story.

The Lilac House is not an easy read, because there is so much it tackles and much of it is below the surface. And that for me is another reason that this story resonated. Each reader can take away a whole different experience. Nair deals with the status of women in this book as she has done in eariler works (I’ve read Mistress, which is one of my favourite books). Meera, her mother and grandmother, Jak’s aunt Kala Chitti, Jak’s daughter Smriti – each of these characters has colourful stories.

And of course, the lilac house where Meera lives with her mother and grandmother also plays a big part in the story. This house that looks like old money is hiding more than cheap paint.

The Lilac House is a beautifully told story of regret, redemption, and revival. Meera and Jak and easy characters to like and I found myself hoping that they would each find the peace they needed to get on with their lives. The story does not have a neat ending, though, and it’s clear that our protagonists have a long way to go. I loved every bit of the story from the mythological tones, to the chapters on cyclones, description of life in booming Bangalore and the small seaside town. Jak’s aunt Kala Chitti is another character who got under my skin. Her quiet wisdom and support of her nephew and his daughter made me fall in love with her character.


Highly recommended for readers of literary fiction and contemporary Indian fiction.

Rating: 5*

*See my Rating policy

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6 Responses to “Book Review: The Lilac House by Anita Nair”

  1. Sam (Tiny Library) June 26, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    I actually really like the more subjective, personal reviews. I could read a formal review of a book in the newspaper but I like to read about the actual experience of reading the book too.

    I already had my eye on this one so now it’s definitely gone on the wishlist!

  2. Jennifer October 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    This sounds lovely, from the characters to all the happenings below the surface. Great review, makes the book sound very enticing.

  3. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d without a doubt donate to this fantastic blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to brand new updates and will share this site with my Facebook group.
    Chat soon!

  4. saurabh October 31, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    New book in town: The Dream Chasers written by Mr. Vipul Mittra also the author of Pyramid of Virgin dreams!!

  5. manoj December 3, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    This book is really a good book which shows us right path. but i read one more book named “ONE BOOK OF LIFE SUCCESS” which is truly motivational and life changing . .The writer has described in Plain English with lot of examples which is easy to understand…For More Please watch the video

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