Book Review: Ladies Coupe, by Anita Nair

  Traveling as a single woman can be scary at times.  Sometimes, men are jerks.  In many countries, there is a car designated specifically for women on rail lines—including light rail lines in  city areas.  I have  traveled on  Women Only  cars in Cairo (great subway line) and several other cities.    The advantage of the women’s car is that there is no jostling, no stinky asshole choosing to sit next to you, and surreptitiously masturbating.  You can relax and read a book, or look out at the view.  You can also  innocently  talk with other women you meet. This novel’s setting is south-eastern India.  the main character meets the women the author writes about on the train.

Nair’s book  is a book of stories intertwined with  the main character’s  story.  Her father died when she was a teenager, ans she stepped up to support her younger siblings. So, nobody  looked for a husband for her and she developed her career.  The novel is not just Akhila’s story, but the stories of the women she meets in the Ladies’ Coupe.

The interwoven stories are well told.  We learn a lot about Indian culture from  women’s perspectives, as well as Brahman norms. Our experiences of being  abused and exploited by men—and being called bitches when we don’t allow it,  are universal. These are stories of late 20th century Indian women. Not much has changed since the turn of the century  Women are still allowed to live…to be…at the pleasure of men.  This is particularly true if one has brothers.

In 2013, I reviewed Girls of Riyadh, by Rajaa Alsanea:

Girls of Riyadh is about upper middle class young women i9n Saudi Arabia.  Alsanea’s stories are  much different from Nair’s, but what they have in common is intelligent women looking for dignity and peace.

I like this book, and would consider giving  it as a gift to a teenage girl. This is not a fairy tale.  It is not a romance or mystery. Chick lit?  Hardly.  It’s women negotiating their  lives.  Also, Nair includes some India recipes at  the end of the book (cooking is so important in Indian culture).


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