Thursday, April 8, 2010

Book review - Goodnight and God Bless by Anita Nair

Bed-time reading is something I look forward to at the end of each day; a calm way to relax before settling down into a comfortable bed to recover from the stresses of the day. Anita Nair’s “Goodnight and God Bless” begins the same way. She describes her bedtime ritual of drinking a warm cup of malted milk and introduces readers to the books by her bedside.

Anita Nair is a well-known Indian novelist, having met critical success with “Ladies Coupe” followed by the more recent “Mistress”. Currently, her newly released novel “Lessons in Forgiving” is conspicuously placed in most bookstores. But this book (Good night…) is different. It is a collection of essays by Nair, many of which have appeared previously in various newspapers and magazines.

On a personal note, essays are my favorite form of writing. And in the hands of an accomplished writer like Nair, even the mundane gets elevated to exquisite literature. She displays witty humor when she relives her days in an advertising agency, which is believes is not just a good training ground for wannabe writers, but should be made mandatory. About her last day in advertising she muses “… never have to attend a meeting where clients, even if their chances of being knighted was one in a million, have to be addressed as “Sir”. Never again would I have to hear about paradigm shifts; I still don’t know what a paradigm is or why for some strange reason it is always shifting”. She is sensitive in her observations about her father and brother and shows the temperamental relationship with her mother in other chapters. Perhaps the most humane side of her comes across in the essay where she analyzes her penchant for attending all the book launches that she is invited to, “to show solidarity and to swell the numbers because I know how much of a heartache it causes when you invite people for a reading and only a handful, or worse, no one show up”.

At other points she describes her travel to foreign lands, train journeys, her village in Kerala and shares deep insights into the motivation and hard work behind writing novels. The essays are crisp and honest, without being preachy. They display the author in an intimate setting, something fiction novels seldom do.

Inside its hardbound cover with a pleasant cover design, this tiny book (measures less than my handspan) is impeccably edited and contains true gems of observations, written in Anita Nair’s inimitable style. A genuine pleasure to read and to own.

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