When travel writer Christopher Stewart arrives at a riverside resort in Kerala to meet Koman, Radha's uncle and a famous kathakali dancer, he enters a world of masks and repressed emotions. From their first meeting, both Radha and her uncle are drawn to the enigmatic young man with his cello and his incessant questions about the past. The triangle quickly excludes Shyam, Radha's husband, who can only watch helplessly as she embraces Chris with a passion that he has never been able to draw from her. Also playing the role of observer-participant is Koman; his life story, as it unfolds, captures all the nuances and contradictions of the relationships being made – and unmade – in front of his eyes.
A brilliant blend of imaginative story-telling and deeply moving explorations into the search for meaning in art and life, Mistress is a literary tour de force from one of India's most exciting writers.
'Like Anita Nair’s earlier works The Better Man and Ladies Coupé, Mistress is firmly planted in the Indian context with no compromises but with a universal appeal' Sunday Express
'Kathakali lends the book its structure and grounds its even-handed, intense drama in a rich setting of myth and ritual; whether sketching Kerala's changing conditions, charting Radha's loveless marriage or describing the closed world of an Islamic village, Nair's third novel is consistently compelling' Guardian
'Nair, the author of two previous novels, Ladies Coupé and The Better Man, has a talent for probing insular worlds. Much as she makes the closed realm of kathakali performers come alive, she paints a poignant picture of the segregated, cloistered Muslim village' Washington Post
'Blends myth, history, and human emotion into a mixture as sweet as the nectar of the jackfruit and as tangled as human behaviour ... highly recommended' Library Journal, starred review
'A sweeping multigenerational ale of love and loss' Financial Times
'Tempestuously exotic ... it pulsates with passion and desire' Booklist