Book Review – The Better Man

What

The Better Man – a drama set in Kaikurussi, a fictitious town in Kerala.

Who?

Written by Anita Nair, the book features Mukundan – a retired government employee and Bhasi – the town painter, as the main protagonists of the novel.

When?

Published in 2000.

How did the book fare?

The book met with encouraging reviews on a general scale. However, there were mixed reactions in terms of the book setting and the storyline, as evident from the review in Sawnet.

Did I like it?

No!

The only aspect in this book that’s worth an applause is the cover art. But apparently there are different versions of the book cover since the book was published by many publishers. I specifically liked the one which showcases an elderly man, shielding himself from rains with a feeble umbrella, keeping his face blissfully obscure. Something in the body language of the man tells us that rain or no rain, the man would like to remain in the shadows and will not like to face anything or anyone, as long as he has a choice. Great work there, aptly suiting the protagonist’s character.

Anita Nair’s ingenious narrative skills do little to make the reader’s attention stay afloat with The Better Man. Her depiction of Kaikurussi is lovely, and the painstakingly written details about the town, the surroundings, and the general backdrop are brilliant. They bring the town alive. The characterization is another element worth mentioning, considering this book, unlike a lot of Nair’s works, has male lead characters. However, the backdrop and characters can in no way grip the readers’ minds and having a wafer-thin story line doesn’t help the cause at all.  With so weak a plot, Nair deserves to be appreciated for not having given up writing the book mid-way! There are way too many side-tracks that finish even before they start and one is left feeling baffled at many points as to what they read in the last few chapters and how exactly it fits the coming chapters. May be worth a read, if you are doing a specific study on imaginary towns in Kerala.


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