I have been contemplating cutting down my screen time even more than I already have, because I feel that despite doing fewer things and having all the liberty to do as I please with the 24 hours on any given day, I am still sometimes left feeling hopelessly out of breath. Like I haven’t been unable to pack in everything I want to. And recently I have felt this when a 200+ page book lingers on for more than a few days. So today, as an experiment, I didn’t turn on my computer at all (until now, of course). It turns out that I can finish a whole book in that time instead. All 250 pages of it. That it was a light, breezy read definitely helped.
I began reading Cold Feet almost as soon as my eyes opened today. And aside from having a couple of friends over for a mid morning coffee and napping a bit, I did nothing but read. I cannot remember the last time I read a book, cover to cover, in a single day. And in case you’re wondering if that’s a measure of how much I enjoyed Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan’s latest offering, I’m woefully sorry. It isn’t. It was not unputdownable. It was just a good book to pull this little experiment off with — breezy, not demanding on the brain, and went by in a jiffy.
I am a big fan of eM’s blog, and over 4 years ago, I had thoroughly enjoyed her first book You Are Here just as much. Of course back then I was fascinated by how a blogger could turn into a rage like she did, and then go on to be a best-selling novelist. Her first book too was enjoyable because the plot, her style and events in the almost-autobiographical narrative were only too fmailiar. Having been through a some, if not, all of it myself, it was easy to get it. So I had been eagerly waiting for Cold Feet, her latest. When I read here and here that others who shared my opinions about the blog and the book loved Cold Feet, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.
But I have to admit, after I finished it, I was just left feeling a little meh. Cold Feet was just a strictly okay read for me. Nothing evocative, nothing particularly beautiful or outstanding. While I agree with MM, in that eM’s style flows with ease and she doesn’t have to try too hard, I have to disagree with her when she says the characters didn’t come across as caricatures. In fact, I found that despite the spectrum of women she has portrayed, many traits and details she has etched out played directly to preconceived moulds that we expect certain kinds of women to fit into. The NGO worker who turned out to be gay. The girl from the news channel who comes across as daring merely because she is with the older man. The apprehensive woman about to meet her gora in-laws. The spooning of bodies and the cupping of breasts that has all the women instantly turning to mush. It left me just feeling a bit, okayyyy, been here, read that too many times before.
It didn’t help that I was at times mixing up the characters. Am I the only one that thought they were a bit indistinguishable now and then, and I had to keep going back to the blurb to remind myself of which sub-plot I was in. The stories are entwined ever so subtly and the not so gentle shifts from 1st person to 3rd and back (two characters narrate their stories in 1st person) made it even harder for me. But I could just put that down to my own stupidity.
Towards the end, I recalled reading this post where eM vehemently opposes her books being categorised as chicklit. And it made me think, if this is not chicklit, what is? It is a story about five women, searching for love, doing womanly things, that mostly only women would be inclined to read about. I cannot imagine any of my male friends ever picking this book up, looking at the cover (even though it doesn’t have a pink stiletto on it), reading the blurb and wanting to put everything else on hold and start reading it. It is light, frothy, sometimes humorous, sometimes even slightly vapid — everything conventional chicklit is made out to be. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with it at all. I buy chicklit. I read chicklit. I enjoy chicklit. So what is wrong in calling a spade a spade?
So no, this one didn’t work for me. India’s answer to Bridget Jones (as proudly quoted on the cover to be an Asian Age opinon) it is definitely not. But I am willing to give eM a chance, because I have read and loved her work. And I continue to love her blog, even with her sporadic and tangential posting habits. That MinCat thinks eM’s second book is infact her ouevre makes me want to add Confessions of a Listmaniac to my list (hah!) and give it a second chance.
And then, right after that I am going to re-read Bridget Jones. Because it has been far too long. And I want to read some real chicklit. Frothy, yet sharp-witted. Light, yet insightful. Chicklit that is not ashamed to be called chicklit.