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The Lilac House



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About The Author

Anita NairAnita Nair

Anita Nair lives in Bangalore, India. Her books have been published in several languages around the world.  Her last novel, Mistress, was long listed for the 2008 Orange Prize in the UK, and named a finalist for the 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award in the U.S. The Lilac... More

photo: David Ignaszewski

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Reading Group Gold

1. Amidst the changeability in Meera’s life, her family home, Lilac House, remains a constant, a place “Meera has forbidden panic” (23). Yet the Lilac House is also cause of much strife in her marriage to Giri. How would you describe Meera’s relationship to her family home in the beginning of the novel? Does this relationship change by the end? How so?

2. Why do you think Anita Nair chose to interweave Greek mythological figures throughout The Lilac House? In what ways did these figures contribute to your reading experience?
3. How do Prof. Jak’s articles about the different stages of a cyclone illuminate the structure of the novel? How about the plot?

4. When Jak is a child and his father flees the family, Jak’s mother says, “I am cursed … that’s what I am. Neither a wife nor a widow. Who am I, Kitcha?” (17). In what ways does Meera’s journey explore this question? What does it mean for her to be a woman who is “neither a wife nor a widow?”

5. As Jak seeks answers to Smriti’s mysterious accident, he tells Kala Chithi that he is “a scientist” and “it is the way of all scientific investigation to end in a conclusion.” In response, Kala Chithi asks, “and Kitcha, what do you do with the conclusion you arrive at?” (58). What does Jak do with his conclusions at the end of the novel? How does Kala Chithi’s question pervade the novel more
generally?

6. The characters in The Lilac House are complex and flawed in many ways. Did you disagree with a character’s way of thinking or his/her actions while reading? At what point? Why?

7. Were you surprised by the truth behind Smriti’s accident? How does Smriti’s campaign against female infanticide tie into broader questions of female identity in the novel?

8. Anita Nair gives the reader insight into both Meera’s and Jak’s perspectives. How do their views on marriage, parenting, love and careers differ? How are they similar? In what ways do these perspectives shift throughout the novel?

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