Vikram Seth's novel is, at its core, a love story: the tale of Lata's--and her mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra's--attempts to find a suitable boy for Lata, through love or through exacting maternal appraisal. Set in the early 1950s in an India newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis, A Suitable Boy takes us into the richly imagined world of four large extended families and spins a compulsively readable tale of their lives and loves. A sweeping panoramic portrait of a complex, multiethnic society in flux, A Suitable Boy remains the story of ordinary people caught up in a web of love and ambition, humor and sadness, prejudice and reconciliation, the most delicate social etiquette and the most appalling violence.
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From Kirkus Reviews:
Vikram Seth who has translated poets, is the author of two bestselling novels, A Suitable Boy--a veritable tour de force in fiction--and a novel in verse, The Golden Gate.He spent several years living in China and published a travel book, From Heaven Lake:Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet.
Set in newly independent India, Nehru's early 1950's, this adipose saga counterbalances a book of social manners--the marrying off of a well-to-do educated young woman, Lata Mehra--with a historical account (even at the level of transcribed parliamentary debate) of the subcontinent trying to find its societal bearings vis-...-vis language, religion, and the redistribution of estate-lands taken off the hands of the elite. Set mainly in Brahmpur, the story encompasses four well-off families, with a focus mostly on the younger members--poets, academics, playboys, newlyweds--who stitch a pattern of peccadillo through their elders' expectations. Meanwhile, Seth, whose California novel in verse, The Golden Gate (1986), was clever and energetic in concept but dull and soapy in final effect, falls into the same trap here: lots of stuff obviously--at a marathon 1300-plus pages--but characters made out of clich‚, with background-India the very stuffed pillow of local color that keeps them standing. The book, too, fairly squeaks with its own pleasure in itself, larded with poetry and a general recommendation of art over politics and money: the characters it spends the most time over are narcissists. Anyone wanting to read how a marriageable daughter can X-ray a whole society ought to let this cream-puff-wrapped-in-a-cinder-block pass and return to Tanizaki's classic Japanese masterpiece, The Makioka Sisters. Fat (the publishing world's delayed reparation for Rushdie's Satanic Verses?) but fatuous. (First printing of 100,000; Book-of- the-Month Dual Selection for May) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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