Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Lilac House by Anita Nair

3 Star

Meera is happily submerged in the role of corporate wife and cookbook writer. Then, one day, her husband fails to come home. Overnight, Meera, disoriented and emotionally fragile, becomes responsible not just for her two children, but also her mother, grandmother and the running of Lilac House, their rambling old family home in Bangalore.

A few streets away, Professor J.A. Krishnamurthy or Jak, cyclone studies expert, has recently returned from Florida, to care for his nineteen-year-old daughter, the victim of a tragic accident. What happened on her holiday in a small beachside village? The police will not help, Smriti’s friends have vanished, and a wall of silence and fear surrounds the incident. But Jak cannot rest until he gets to the truth.

Meera and of Jak's paths intertwine as they uncover the truth about the secrets of their pasts and the promise of the future. The Lilac House is a sweeping story of redemption, forgiveness and second chances. 

Lydia - 3 Star

The Lilac House is a novel about starting over and finding the truth. Initially intrigued, this novel slowly unraveled for me and unfortunately I didn’t end up enjoying it as much as I had hoped.
Part of my problem was that The Lilac House wasn’t really written in scenes. It was more like snapshots – sometimes up to three in a page, separated by spaces. Initially this confused and irritated me because I was prepared to have moved on to a new scene only to discover we were still in the same one, it was just another thought or the continuation of the scene or it jumped to a flashback and then back to the scene instead of just a memory inserted into the prose. Once I got used to it (about half way through the book), I got over it, but I don’t know it was completely necessary and deterred from the novel for me. It seemed to be a gimmicky way to create a sense of urgency to the read, as did the really short sentences used for most of the novel, and unfortunately it didn’t really work for me.
There was also a lot of jumping around in this novel in addition to the short snapshot scenes which also caused some confusion as we hopped and skipped all over the place from the past to the present to the same scene to another, from Mera’s perspective to Jak’s. I was never clear where I was going to go during the multiple transitions and this aggravated me more than I would have liked as it sometimes took me paragraphs to realize where the next scene landed.
There were aspects I appreciated and could relate to such as Mera’s struggles with her failed marriage and her need to move on, her worries about her children, especially her daughter after meeting Jak and Jak’s desire to find out the truth, but I didn’t really like either Mera or Jak’s characters. I didn’t find them really warm or entirely likeable. I felt Mera’s children to be the most real in this novel and had one of the most touching scenes.  The story of Jak’s daughter was intriguing enough to continue reading to watch whether he can uncover the truth.
There were some details surrounding Jak and his daughter that I really didn’t appreciate finding them shocking, repulsive and cringe inducing. I’m not going to spoil, but I shudder even writing this and unfortunately it is for this reason that The Lilac House will likely stay with me rather than for the characters or the story itself. Anyone looking for a more literary and heavier read may enjoy though!

Thank you to St. Martin's Press for our review copy!

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