BOOK REVIEW: LITERARY REVIEW/WHEN MIRA WENT FORTH AND MULTIPLIED

THE HINDU


 LITERARY REVIEW
September 2, 2012


Anything but a nuisance

A whole new spin on the old cliché: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” 

SHEILA KUMAR






Mira’s tale does not have the smoothest of starts, and the reader is more than a little startled to be set down bang in the middle of what appears to be a meltdown being suffered by the eponymous heroine. However, once that hurdle is crossed, the story is underpinned with all of Antony’s trademark wit-in-sardonic-vein, her distinctive weltanschauung.

What it's about
Mira is a She in desperate search of her He. She meets him in Samundar Shah, a.k.a Sam… arguably the only hero in contemporary fiction to be referenced to the popular 1950s Malayalam film star Prem Nazir! Mira thinks she has found her man for all seasons and all reasons; he, poor sap, doesn’t know he is getting the cliché: the oversexed virgin.
So, they have a one-night stand, which she blows up almost immediately into Technicolor romance. Suddenly Sam is the point and everything else, besides the point. When he walks off into the squalid sunset without looking back, it becomes a Technicolor heartbreak. The heartbreak is heartbreakingly real, no pretence of wit here.
Fantasies of destruction and revenge follow and, after shedding exactly 4,361 tears over Sam, Mira decides to go wreak revenge, vendetta on a shoestring budget. Only to barge into a set piece consisting of her hero-turned-villain’s improbably named wife Delta, his mother Leela-ben and his in-laws, the Lalans. What follows is a muddle of faked pregnancies, hysteria controlled and let loose, incidents funny, sad and all too true-to-type. The story never becomes maudlin; cynical yes, but never maudlin.
Antony has the reader chortling (a given, in any work by her) with priceless gems like What Mira Told the Landlady’s Husband. The spin on Mira’s real name is another chuckle-inducer. And the emergence of most unlikely man-in- the-wings, right at the end of the novel, is hilarious. Antony has Mira muse on the fact that scorned women liven up literature but are such a nuisance in real life. Be the latter as it may, Mira in print is anything but a nuisance to the reader.
The story does flag a bit in parts, weighed down by chunks of unrestrained introspection. The tone seems to deliberately lack depth; the reader is never really allowed to feel too much for any of the characters. The prose, though, flows lush but tight, descriptive and restrained. If that sounds contrary, Antony, now author of five books, has always been something of a contrarian in the way she serves up commonplace emotions and situations in anything but commonplace prose.

Contrary nature
While most women readers may well empathise with Mira, her running-to-bizarre wackiness may put them off as well. When Mira is subjected to a girl-seeing session, her prospective in-laws ask: “Hope you are not one of those women who will insist on working after the baby?” To which Mira replies, optimistically, “Statistically, one in 100 women dies during delivery.” And that’s Mira for you. Chick lit? Well, if this is chick lit, it’s like no other chick lit! As for the cover, it’s a real humdinger.


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