Book Review: Eating Wasps by Anita Nair

Anita Nair needs no introduction. Does she?  She is India’s most prolific and popular author. Her latest book Eating Wasps comes with an interesting book cover that forces you to give it a second look. Flip over to read the blurb and you surely would be intrigued to get started reading it as soon as possible.

I have loved Anita Nair’s earlier books, especially Ladies Coupe. She has an inherent ability to spin stories around women, touching upon issues, concerns and other things with utmost subtlety. Eating wasps is no different from her previous work. In true Anita Nair style it is a sensitive narrative- a fiction that explores lives of women behind the veil of family, duty and honour. She explores with confidence the inner side of marriage, motherhood, the longing for freedom, desires and passion.

From within the pages

The book begins with the suicide of a thirty-five year old writer Sreelakshmi. A couple of decades later, in an old cupboard in a private resort, her charred finger is discovered when a frightened child hides inside it. From here begins a narrative in Sreelakshmi’s voice, and out come tumbling stories- Sreelakshmi’s, the little girl’s, and of a few other women around. Unraveling their lives, they lay it bare for us to see, think and contemplate. They are women who are distinctly apart, from different backgrounds, but when it comes to their issues, each face similar prejudices – of gender bias.

“The ancients, the scriptures, all of them tell you that life is simple. That we complicate it with our thoughts, our desires, our hopes for ourselves, our need to immortalise ourselves even while we breathe. Sometimes all it takes is meeting another person, for everything that appeared simple to suddenly become full of complexities.”

– Anita Nair, Eating Wasps

Real people are flawed

These are realistic characters of women who may seem strong with the grit to survive. Yet, they come with a baggage of flaws. Sreelakshmi with her intense passion realizes that when a woman expresses her desires, it is still considered a shame. Urvashi the successful journalist needs to look beyond her marriage in her quest to discover herself. There is young Najma a victim of acid attack due to another’s desire, and young Meghna abused yet again by desire. The women need to confront their problems, face complexity in their decision making, and learn that life is surely not the way they deem it to be.

My verdict on the book

Fairly decent portrayal of characters, real incidents brought in make the book worth a read. I loved her take on the complexities surrounding the lives of her characters and their urge for sexual liberation. Her poetic prose is brilliant and a delight to read.

What irked me in the book is the presentation of the entire plot. The women and their stories weren’t entirely linked to a common plot; they just seemed to be independent stories strung together loosely. The structure seemed to be laden with interruptions with back stories that left me more confused than at ease. There were way too many characters, which made me constantly turn pages back and forth to stay on track. Also, none of the stories come with a complete ending. It is left to the readers to assume their own conclusion( yes, and that did leave me hanging in the air)

Eating Wasps is a chronicle of ordinary women with regular tales. The book did seem disturbing in parts, but it wasn’t like I felt a chill rising up my spine. It addresses concerns in a fairly decent way, but fails to touch an inner chord.

Average one time read.

Eating Wasps

 The book is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format.

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