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ISBN: 2246482615
ISBN 13: 9782246482611
By: Vikram Seth

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Reader's Thoughts

Bramha Raju

I admit without a semblance of ignominy that my convent bred education never allowed me to enjoy my own clan- Indian authors. But recently, as my brother would say, I have developed a taste for it. When this book was released and made such a mayhem in the readers world, the size of the book and the language put me off. It has been sitting on my shelf and quietly staring at me until I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I finally read it and now at 37 years old and 13 years plus married life, I thoroughly empathize with the protagonist, Lata. Lata’s decision was no surprise. I saw it coming. Still I was angry and badly upset. Maybe because I could resonate with her reasoning. Maybe because I am reminded of the coward in me? Maybe because she speaks for the large mass of girls who would rather their lives be a smooth ride of mediocrity than the brilliance of quicksilver. Choosing to be mediocrely happy. Choosing the safer path, choosing the content life, choosing the stagnation. Lata disturbed me and I know it’s going to take some time to get back to my mediocrely safe choices. But all in all it was a brilliant read and Vikrem Seth is a graceful writer. Almost like a Jane Austen. He is too elaborative at times and hopefully forgive me for skipping a few pages on parliamentary politics. So when Vikram Seth challenges you in his opening lines.. 'Buy me before good sense insists,You’ll strain your purse and sprain your wrists.'take the plunge. Its worth your time.

Deanne

This book is huge, and the cast of charcters is enormous. It centres around a hindu girl whose mother wants her to marry a suitable boy. The setting is a city in 1950's India on the verge of dividing through religious lines. I read the book in about three days and as a result could keep all the characters straight ie how they related to each other. I also thought the use of the rhyming couplets at the start of each chapter was amusing.Have to admit if she was my mother I'd be looking for a suitable place to hide the body.

Joyce Lagow

A massive (1474 pages), quiet novel that superficially is something of an Indian novel of manners much in the style of the 19th century English novelists, but which also is a history of India at a critical time� the early 1950s� as experienced by the members of four middle class families and a host of characters from others.[return][return]The central thread of the novel is the search for a husband� � a suitable boy� for Lata Mehra, the younger daughter of Mrs. Rupra Mehra, a widow who lives in the fictional state of Purva Pradesh. Mrs. Mehra� s older daughter, Savita, has just been married to Pran Kapoor, a lecturer at Brahmpur University; Pran is the son of the Minister of Revenue for Purva Pradesh, Mahesh Kapoor, who was one of the original freedom fighters for India� s independence, and who is now an influential member of the ruling Congress Party. The Meharas and the Kapoors, along with the Chatterjis, an upper-class Hindu family of much more modern habits and the Kahns, a Muslim landowning family, provide the bulk of the characters through whose lives the reader sees India. [return][return] It is 1951, 5 years after independence, and 4 years after the agonizing partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan. The politicians have taken over from the British, and Seth� s account makes it clear that as everywhere else in the world, mediocrity for the most part rules and those who have risen from powerlessness to power are no different in their ambitions than in any other country. India is still fragile, still troubled with tensions between Muslims and Hindus, floundering in many respects� held together mainly through the people� s devotion to their Prime Minister, Nehru. While the novel concerns itself with the lives of those in the four families, who are either related by marriage or by ties of friendship, the political life of the country, as seen through the affairs of Purva Pradesh, is a prominent subthread. Hindu-Muslim riots and the elections of 1952 are an integral part of the story and affect the lives of all the families. Since one of the families is that of a powerful Muslim landowner who is affected by the land redistribution act promulgated and fought for by his best friend, Kapoor, Seth� s narration shows the consequences� both intended and unintended� of a well-meaning legislation aimed at giving poor tenant farmers their own land. Some of which actually wind up harming terribly the very people the legislation is meant to help. Seth does this seamlessly within the framework of the lives of his characters.[return][return]Another fascinating aspect of the book is the description of the Hindu religious celebrations. Since the story takes place over a time period of slightly more than one year, all the major religious celebrations are presented as seen through the participation of the characters� both the devout older women of the story, the somewhat skeptical younger generation who participate more out of a sense of tradition than piety, and of the men in the families, who are almost universally scornful and impatient with what they view as superstition. A panic during one of the major festivals that causes the deaths of hundreds. The inadvertent intermingling of a Hindu and a Muslim religious procession which results in a horrendous riot. These and more are skillfully interwoven into the main story.[return][return]But what leaps out more than anything else in this vast book is the way that the Indian middle classes have become Anglicized. It is a remarkable description of how an oppressed people long dominated by a ruling class of another race has taken on the prejudices and practices of their oppressors. � A suitable boy� must be able to speak English without accent. � A suitable boy� must not be too dark� as one of the characters says she does not want her grandchildren to be black. Lawyers in the courts address judges as � my Lords� . Cricket is a passion.[return][return]One minor flaw that is from time to time irritating: Seth uses a large number of Hindi words for all sorts of things, from the names of trees to fruits to common household items. Most of the time, this is not a problem because either (sooner or later) the meaning becomes clear from the context or the singularity of whatever it is, such as a tree, doesn� t get in the way. But from time to time, it� s a puzzle to understand exactly what Seth is talking about. Is it a chair? A stool? A bed? Some other piece of furniture? The book would benefit from a glossary.[return][return]There is more to this book, but these are the main threads. It� s a quiet book, that at first keeps to its innocent appearance as a book of manners, but slowly draws the reader in to the lives of the characters and the times in which they live. It becomes a page-turner simply because these lives, while quite ordinary in one sense, are caught up in extraordinary times and in a quest to live and be fulfilled when the world around them is changing from the traditional to the inescapably modern. The struggle to adjust, to keep what is valuable and also expected of the traditional� to keep purdah in the face of women� s voting rights, to accept arranged marriages in a world where young men and women can mingle far more freely than is traditional� while adjusting to the freedoms and dangers of the modern world� Seth has done a brilliant job of showing us ordinary, believable people caught up in this transition and making their lives absorbing to a reader 50 years later.[return][return]Highly recommended.[return][return]

Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship

This book was such a treat, I am sorry to be finished with it. Yes, it’s longer than War and Peace, but that doesn’t mean it’s drawn-out or dull; it’s simply that the book presents a sprawling tapestry of life in India in the 1950’s, starring several families and with many intersecting plots and subplots. Individual chapters are actually quite short, and something new is always happening. (For that matter, the same can be said for War and Peace – these mammoth novels aren’t as scary as they seem.)It’s a hard book to summarize, because there are so many threads. Part of it is about the love life of a college student, Lata, and her mother’s search for a suitable boy for her to marry. Part of it is about a playboy, Maan, and the various difficulties he gets himself into. There’s a political thread starring Maan’s father, a government minister, and there are domestic dramas in several families, and large-scale tragedies and Hindu-Muslim conflict, and, oh, academic infighting and shoemaking and childbirth and poetry readings and much more. Seth keeps it all interesting, though; I love reading an author who takes a lively interest in everything without getting bogged down in pet hobbies, and seeing so much more of life than the typical novel allows was great fun.There is, of course, a very large cast, but Seth keeps them all distinct and interesting; even when a thread disappears for hundreds of pages at a time, I had no trouble remembering anyone. In all the myriad settings, relationships and situations depicted, the characters are well-drawn and convincing, and that’s no mean feat. By and large this book is about upper-middle and upper-class characters, which keeps the book from being bleak as stories about India sometimes are (we do see some abuse of lower-caste characters here, but it isn’t A Fine Balance). And Seth creates a great sense of place and does an expert job of depicting Indian culture: this book is full of sights, sounds, foods, celebrations, religion, politics, and so on, all drawn in a way that an outside reader can understand, but without pausing the narrative to explain things to the reader. It’s not exoticized, I doubt it would seem simplified to those familiar with the culture, but the characters will seem familiar and relatable even to those who aren’t.So why not 5 stars? Well, I’m a hard grader, and I wouldn’t say the book made a deep impression on me; while it was a pleasure to read, I rarely thought about it at other times. And the writing, while good, is not spectacular.And now, because I read an almost-1500-page book, I feel entitled to some fannish commentary.Favorite characters: Pran and Savita. What wonderful, strong and interesting people. Oddly, given that they marry at the beginning of the book, I’m not entirely sure I like them together, but I did enjoy their hospital notes.Least favorite character: Maan. A selfish playboy whose moments of courage don’t compensate for the heedless damage he does to the lives of everyone around him.Favorite minor character: Dr. Ila Chattopadhyay. “Forceful” is an understatement.Favorite walk-ons: the fans of Amit. His readers come out with such hilariously bizarre non sequiturs that I have to think the author borrowed from his own experience. But though Amit is a writer and therefore in danger of becoming an author avatar, Seth doesn’t indulge him, and the character is as realistic as the others. Also, his major poem, “The Fever Bird,” is actually good, and how often can you say that about poetry included in a novel?Ultimately, a highly enjoyable book that I would certainly recommend. I kind of miss reading it (that'll happen when something really good takes you a month and a half). The good news: in 2016 Seth is publishing a sequel, set in the present day. You don’t hear “good news” and “sequel” together from me often, but I’m excited about this one.

Sarah

Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy is one of the best books I've ever read in my entire life. It's a long book. But it is very engaging; I managed to read it in one stretch, with a break to sleep, while I awaited the movers to take me and my belongings across the counry. To my chagrin I had completed it before my flight, and when it finished I didn't want the book to be over, I wanted to go back and re-read it from the beginning. It is one of the best books about life in India I've ever read, it is the anti-Kite Runner book. There is nothing trite or stereotyped about the characterization; it believably describes elements of society that are even oblique to people with the mainstream of modern Indian society; the plot is not simple, nor is it a convulted mystery story. Writing this up I think I should go get it and read it again. Like most of my favorite books I gave it away a long time ago.

Maia Berens

This is my favorite book of all time. I can't wait until time passes so I can read it again.

Megan Baxter

I was never entirely sure who belonged to what family in this book, but it never really bothered me. I mean, after we switched back to a different group of characters, I was able to reconstruct who they were related to fairly easily, but I never could hold the genealogies in my mind.Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

Anoop Pai B

Game, set, match.. Cannot control my tears (not literal ones) from streaming down on my dust covered face and leaving a track as it slides down.. Reading this book felt like lifting the Wimbledon trophy, the most coveted prize in tennis. Ever single person who turns a professional, wants to win nothing more, than Wimbledon, at least once. Else there is no inner peace. I too, was like a tennis player, in the sense that ever since I picked up a novel, ever since I became an "avid" reader, Suitable Boy was was my ultimate challenge. If ever there was one book that scared me yet pulled me towards it, it was this book.And now that I have completed reading this book I am left with a void within myself. There is an unwelcomed emptiness inside of me that can be filled with only by another wonderful book, which alas, may take some time in finding.In some ways, you can say that the book is like How I Met Your Mother. You know that the story is about how Ted meets his wife and also that his princess wont be revealed till last season. This book too is something like that. The first sentence reveals what the crux is going to be. but still you are left in amazement as to how Seth has managed to narrate it over 1300 pages without boring you at any place. I am still amazed.The strength of the book lies in the simplicity of the narration and in the humble decoration of the characters. Nothing is loud or gaudy or chaotic, but it is simple, sweet and pleasant. Each and every character has a unique personality, distinct from one another. What this does is that it prevents the story from being monotonous and repetitive. The story revolves around Lata, whose mother states an ultimatum of sorts, that she too will marry a guy chosen by the mother, just like her sister did. What follows is a journey on a train of beautiful storytelling with scenic characters passing by and you are left turning your head back to catch a final glimpse of each one of them.Vikram Seth takes you to the place of Brahmapur where the story takes place (with an occasional visit to Calcutta, Delhi, Kanpur and other cities). One would get the feeling of being right amidst the members of the family and taking an active participation in their day to day chores, their joys, their sorrows, their struggles, their victory, their celebration, their tears, their hunger, their delight and so on. One might find it hard to express satisfaction or otherwise at the actions and reactions of the characters. Many a times, I was yelling into a book, almost talking to the characters when I knew that I was being ridiculous (or was I?). In fact, I went to through many sleepless nights because I just could not stop reading.But as said in Matrix Revolutions, all that has a beginning has an end. Eventually I did have to put down the book. Eventually I had to say goodbye to all of the people whom I had met in the book, who became my kith and kin, who became more endearing to me than my actual relatives. I am not sad that book got over, but I am glad that I read this one.

Margitte

The book blurb says it all. I will only add my comments.While reading this monumental novel of 1535 pages, I was wondering how much of the original offering was edited out to end up with this number of pages as the final result! I also wondered, while ploughing through it, how much of the existing book can be cut out and still leave the essential core. Probably half of it. Compared to Barbara Kingsolver and Yung Chang, Vikram Seth needed twice as much pages to tell similar stories as these two authors.So yes, it was a long-winded journey: a story of India after Partition, that was told through the eyes of four extended families with each member profiled to the last red spot of paan on the teeth. This book really celebrates the good, the bad and the ugly of humankind. Mrs. Rupa Mehra, with her daughter,Lata, get the train rolling when it becomes time to find a suitable husband for Lata. India in all its colorful splendor is presented to the reader to almost the puking stage, to be really honest! But how fascinating the journey!Enough! Enough! Enough! I often wanted to just run away, and I did, since it is the end of the financial year (February) and what is normally a quiet relaxed month turned out to be one of the craziest in recent history. But each evening I sneaked off to bed and grabbed the book as though my life depended on it. In retrospect this book was amazing. The drama lasted the entire 1535 pages and that really makes this book outstanding! There's no villains, only ordinary people writing their own histories while living their lives. I do not want to add too much spoilers and blow the plot, or give away the story. But I cannot leave out one of the most outstanding moments in the book, for me: it was the passing of a mother and it had me crying like losing my own. (view spoiler)[" She had dispersed. She was the garden at Prem Nivas (soon to be entered into the annual Flower Show), she was Veena's love of music, Pran's asthma, Maans generosity, the survival of some refugees four years ago, the neem leaves that would preserve quilts stored in the great zinc trunks of Prem Nivas, the moulting feathers of some pond herons, a small unrung brass bell, the memory of decency in an indecent time, the temperament of Bhaskar's great-grandchildren, indeed, for all the Minister of Revenue's impatience with her, she was his regret. And it was right that she should continue to be so, for he should have treated her better while she lived, the poor, ignorant, grieving fool." (hide spoiler)]Much of India's modern history could have been my own country's. Even the name of political parties, the titles of new bills, the speeches made in parliament, the way landowners got treated, sounded like it was written for South Africa. Much of the events are disturbingly similar. In fact, it is a blueprint and it turned my stomach upside down. Not that it is a surprise, but it is still upsetting to experience.I liked this book. It was a brilliant presentation of Mother India and all her beautiful children.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

Sam

A Suitable Boy is the inter-connected tale of four families in post-independence India. Although the central story is Mrs Rupa Mehra's quest to find a suitable husband for her daughter Lata, Seth's novel is more than that and is best described as a panoramic of Indian society. From racial tension to religious festivals to adultery, ambition and politics, A Suitable Boy is an epic in every sense of the word. The many individual stories are told alongside each other in nineteen parts and cover the human condition in all its forms. I enjoyed reading about Savita's journey into motherhood, Pran's struggle to become an academic, the Nawab Sahib's bewilderment as the world he knew disappeared and the eccentric Chatterji family, who were more liberal and liked to speak in couplets.If you have the time to invest in it, A Suitable Boy is a very rewarding book. For me, it's up there with Gone with the Wind and Anna Karenina as a book that I will always remember. Lata and the cast of characters feel like members of my friends and family; two days after putting this book down for good, I'm missing them. Towards the end of the book when things start to happen and events get resolved, I was emotionally invested in the outcome each character would have. Seth made me connect with each one (even if I didn't like them all) and I have a clear visualisation of what each character is about, which is not easy to pull off. It felt almost like the book got into my soul.As the scope of Suitable Boy is so broad, there's guaranteed to be something in it for each reader. I'm a fan of multiple perspective books anyway and the rapid shifting between points of view stopped this long book from becoming tedious to read. I'm in utter awe at the way Seth managed to wind all of his characters and events together without losing the impact of the story. There are some plot points not resolved by the end and everything doesn't tie up nicely, but then it's not the kind of book where everything would. A Suitable Boy does require an investment of time and effort but most definitely repays anything you put into it.

Paul

After about page 200 I realised this was like eating Turkish Delight morning noon and night and my spiritual teeth were beginning to dissolve under a tide of sickliness which didn't ever let up. All these characters are so unbearably cute, even the less-nice ones. If post-independent India was crossed with Bambi, it would be Vikram Seth's endless gurgling prose. So I stopped reading and drove several three inch nails into my head, and I've been all right since then.

Neha

A Suitable boy is a very sutiable book for both boys & girls.. When I borrowed this book from the library I found it surprisingly huge and scary, everyone who saw me carrying it was equally astounded. I started having my doubts that what if the book becomes a lousy read and I end up wasting my time or leave it half read.. but the book from Page 1 had a smooth pace & never for once lost my interest. SO when Vikram Seth says in his opening lines.. 'Buy me before good sense insists,You’ll strain your purse and sprain your wrists.'he is not right but not also wrong.. though I didn spend money on it and though heavy & huge - I could manage without straining my wrists.. But you know what - this book is collecter's item so buy it and save it.. sutiable for your library.To read more:http://storywala.blogspot.in/2011/12/...

Tariq Mahmood

Some are born mad, some achieve madness, and others have madness thrust upon them.The book is set in the days just after partition, based on families going through birth pangs after the Partition of India into India and Pakistan. The Partition and subsequent religious riots in India have made a pretty significant affect on the psych of India which is of a much more lasting nature than Pakistan who can only look back or read about Partition on their end. Indians on the other hand live in constant fear of inciting yet another religious riot in their cities while Pakistanis can move on after burying the riots behind them. Religious riots are far more dangerous than racial riots.It struck me almost halfway through the novel, the irony of the much lauded Zamindari bill which Seth has so vividly portrayed in this classic novel. What is the difference between the East India Company and the Indian Nationalists if the All India Congress party? The Zamindari bill was same policy polished and re-badged all over again. How can we have the audacity to accuse the British of exploiting India when Indians seem to have done exactly the same when their turn was up?As I read more and more of this wondrously engaging story, I could relate to straight parables to the Partition drama, there is a crime of drunken passion purported by one good friend, which for me resembled the senseless riots after the Partition. There are other examples which are steeped in Partition which for me makes the story very relevant for a proper depiction of that era. All in all the book was a very engaging read. The only drawback was the size of the paperback which makes it a very difficult job to lunge around, but I am not taking any stars from because of it....

Lynne King

This is a magnificent saga, which left me breathless and awaiting the next word, set in India at the beginning of the fifties."Suitable Boy" by Vikram Seth's “epic love story set in India. Funny and tragic, with engaging, brilliantly observed characters, it is as close as you can get to Dickens for the twentieth century. The story unfolds through four middle class families - the Mehras, Kappoors, Khans and Chatterjis. Lata Mehra, a university student, is under pressure from her mother to get married. But not to just anyone she happens to fall in love with. There are standards to be met and finding a husband for Lata becomes a family affair in which all the members are to play a part.”“The richness of this book is remarkable. What with marriage, religion, customs, etc. it has been a really fascinating read for me.”India's caste system has four main classes (also called varnas) based originally on personality, profession and birth. I’m eternally grateful to Fionnuala for suggesting that I may perhaps like this author. Do I like Vikram Seth? No, of course not. I just happen to adore him. I think that he’s absolutely splendid. I get the same pleasure reading this book as when I’m eating lobster or tasting a superb Burgundy wine or whatever sublime other pleasures that we have in life…My…I must confess that I had never heard of Seth before and I wouldn’t if it hadn’t been for Goodreads. It’s one of those remarkable books that becomes a reference book that once read, you can open it at any page and still get that continual enjoyment. It’s a wonderful sensation to savour…It’s always so difficult for me to write a review on a book that I “love to death” but that has been the case here. This is now my second favourite fiction book after “The Alexandria Quartet” and I could never do that justice. Bravo for the past for Durrell and for the present for Vikram Seth.In conclusion, Fionnuala and Seth – thank you for giving me so much pleasure. What a serendipitous find. I love this book.

Quirine

I have an in-built horror of books that stray on longer than 300 pages. Anything longer and I always find the story sagging somewhere towards the middle and losing me by the end. Except with A Suitable Boy. It's over 1000 (tightly written) pages and I only wish it could have gone on and on. This sprawling saga takes you all over India in the 50s, into the lives of a dozen or so interconnected characters. And yet Seth masterfully manages to keep each story bubbling on the stove with delicious results!

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