Ladies Coupé is the story of Akhila and six other women that she meets on the train. Akhila is searching for the answer to the question ‘Can she live alone?’ Traditionally in Indian culture women are supposed to get married and if that doesn’t happen their only other alternative is to live with family. Akhila has been the breadwinner of her family since the death of her father when she was in her early twenties. She worked providing financial support to her mother, younger brothers and sister as they grew up. All the while Akhila was forsaking her life to respect her duties to her family. One day gets an idea into her head to live alone but doesn’t know if it’s really possible for her. or for in other woman for the matter So she invents a work trip to get away to reflect on her future as maybe a woman living alone.
Once she arrives in the train, six different women enter the car. They are different ages and are living completely different lives and social statuses. Each one recounts openly the story of their lives. Meanwhile Akhila is using this time to reflect on her dilemma. Ladies Coupé is a succession of stories of women starting life fresh, wide-eyed and energetic but are slowly but surely faced with the harsh realities of being a woman in modern-day India. Each story is personalised, saddening, and sometimes disturbing. They almost all ring with a sense of frightening reality.
As I was reading I found the chapters to be very long and sometimes difficult to read quickly. The chapters are full of information, names that aren’t so easy to remember either and it’s difficult to stop before the end of one. The story is told changing from third to first person frequently, making identifying with the characters a difficult task. Sometimes I wonder if it was just difficult to relate to them because of the cultural difference. There were times when I just wanted to fling my book across the room in frustration with what was happening to the women. I guess that could be considered a sort of relating to the characters. As I approached the end I was anxious to see how Anita Nair would tie this story up. Unfortunately she disappointed me because she didn’t have the courage to deal with the ending head on. She coped out and that was really what made me give it 3 stars over on Goodreads. As a reader, I needed a concrete ending to match the concrete stories of these women. Nevertheless, it was interesting to read and discovering a new female Indian author was enlightening.
Anita Nair is a popular Indian writer and has written several novels and children’s stories. Ladies Coupé, her second novel, has been translated into 21+ languages along with her first novel The Better Man, which was published in 2000. Ladies coupé was rated one of the top five books of the year 2002. Nair also wrote a collection of poems and a poetry workshop anthology through the British Council. Some of her other novels are Adventures of Nonu, the Skating Squirrel, Living Next door to Alise, Mistress, and Magical Indian Myths.