Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Classical Romance

A Suitable Boy
A Suitable Boy 

"But I too hate long books: the better, the worse. If they're bad they merely make me pant with the effort of holding them up for a few minutes. But if they're good, I turn into a social moron for days, refusing to go out of my room, scowling and growling at interruptions, ignoring weddings and funerals, and making enemies out of friends. I still bear the scars of Middlemarch."  — Vikram Seth

I have just reached page 700 in this very long novel and I am (almost) half way through the book. A novel of India set in the early 1950s just after the partition, A Suitable Boy provides a window into the culture and history of India at that juncture in its history through a romance about a young girl, Lata, whose mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra, is searching for a "suitable boy" for her to marry. The novel's opening section succeeded in getting my attention. Some of the most notable aspects of the novel include the subtle ways that the author suggests the continuing cultural influence of England, from the impact of literary awards to the reading habits of several of the characters. Moreover the novel successfully includes all aspects of Indian life and nationality from the caste system to religious differences between Hindus and Muslims to the impact of changes in business and government life on the four families at the center of the novel. Seth's novel is a tour de force that demonstrates his skill in writing, knowledge of India, and his ability to marry the charms of a classical romance novel within the broad reach of a realistic family and nationalistic saga.

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.

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