With each story, Ambai confronts the construction of gender in Tamil literature. Piecing together letters, journal entries, and notes, she weaves themes of both self-liberation and confinement into her writing. Her stories meditate on motherhood, sexuality, and the liberating, and at times inhibiting, contours of the body.
...a vibrant montage portraying the lives of Tamil women, from birth to adolescence, womanhood to old age ... In a society where women’s voices are hushed by tradition everywhere except, perhaps, the kitchen, Ambai has crafted stories as diverse and savory as the dishes created in this space ... The Tamil people...with a long recorded history, find their identity in their language. This linguistic heritage gives Ambai, who was born in Tamil Nadu, her unique voice and vision. Because of the varied and sometimes irregular use of writing styles and occasionally disembodied dialogue, each Kitchen story is best experienced as a journey to an exotic locale savored for its sensuality, mystery, and daily life at times more easily imbibed than understood ... To best portray Tamil culture and traditions, the translation of A Kitchen in the Corner of the House, by Lakshmi Holmström, doesn’t shy away from preserving prose and storylines that don’t always follow a linear path. The sinuous nature and apparent incongruity of the narratives is perhaps true to life lived anywhere but especially to life lived under a blazing sun and in mountains more appealing from a distance ... A Kitchen in the Corner of the House poses these questions and more by depicting an endless journey that is often harsh, sometimes beautiful, frequently mysterious, and always exquisite.
Ambai infuses a deep sense of reality in her stories by making the worlds of these women rich in sensory details—one can almost smell and taste and feel the environment of the characters ... Particularly poignant in Ambai’s stories are the descriptions of the woman’s body and pains that are unique to her ... this is exactly why Ambai’s stories are so interesting. They move beyond the realm of the familiar to the darkness unique to the plight of Indian women.
Ambai...the pseudonym used by researcher and educator Dr. C.S. Lakshmi for her fiction, evokes in sensuous, vibrant prose the colors, flavors, and sounds of Indian life in a collection of 21 stories ... For some women, journeys—meaningful, necessary, planned, or spontaneous—end in epiphany; others find contentment at home ... Fresh, graceful stories create a palpable world.