Books

Book Review: A Suitable Boy

I finished reading the book ‘A Suitable Boy’ by Vikram Seth today.

I must warn you: To those who haven’t read the book and wish to do so, SPOILERS AHEAD!!

I remember reading a bit of the ‘Golden Gate’ years ago when I was doing English literature and I’d enjoyed that bit. Hence, I was looking forward to reading ‘A Suitable Boy’; particularly as it was recommended by the same friend that recommended ‘A Fine Balance’ which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I was disappointed.

First and foremost, it is a long book of about 1400 and some pages. Unlike ‘Shantaram’, though I read this book in one go. It definitely had it’s good bits with characters such as Maan Kapoor and Meenakshi Mehra and Lata Mehra and Mrs. Rupa Mehra and Firoz and Kabir Durrani and Malati.

The story focuses mainly around Lata and her mother, Rupa Mehra’s search for a suitable boy for her. Lata falls in love with Kabir, a Muslim boy, and therefore, she cannot pursue that love. There is the rest of the family as well and of course, a great deal about politics and India, which has only recently attained independence. I must confess, I tended to skip some of the political shit because it did not interest me in the least.

Lata started off as a promising character — a girl pursuing her university degree, thinking for herself, trying to stand up for herself and her views. But in the end, she disappointed me. She gave in. She married the boy chosen by her mother. And mind you, the character of this guy was distasteful in my opinion, particularly his arrogance and need to name-drop.

It felt pointless.

I am still trying to figure out whether Seth was trying to mock the ridiculousness of Indian society to an extent with having ladies being extremely superstitious and blindly religious. And yet, on the other hand, I wonder whether he was trying to praise this. If he was mocking it, I get it. If not, I’m sorry, but I don’t agree.

I know it was set in the 1950s but why have a strong-willed character, only to have her bow down to pressures of society???? It made the book very anti-climactic. It depicted that mixed marriages don’t work. It depicted that a woman who wants to be independent and who is open-minded. is floozy (via Meenakshi’s character).

And I for one, do not appreciate that.

If you have read the book, I would certainly appreciate your comments and views.

Have I misunderstood or misconstrued the whole thing? Am I missing something???

Do tell.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

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No Comments

  • Reply
    Smita
    December 26, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    I had started this book around 4 years back….Am yet to finish it 😀

    It looks like text book….nahin?

  • Reply
    Bedazzled
    December 30, 2008 at 7:46 am

    This book has been on the agenda for a few years now.. never got around to reading it ..i have read only 1 Vikram sheth book – equal music .. loved it..

  • Reply
    Asphodel
    December 31, 2008 at 8:48 am

    Hmm looks like its 1400 pages to avoid 😛

  • Reply
    Psych Babbler
    December 31, 2008 at 11:07 am

    I wonder why you haven’t finished it yet… 😛

    And yes, it is huge and feels like you may be studying for an exam!

  • Reply
    Psych Babbler
    December 31, 2008 at 11:25 am

    @ Bedazzled: I haven’t read an Equal Music but will get around to it. I’d liked what I’d read of Golden Gate. But yeah, unfortunately, was disappointed by this one.

    @ Asphodel: Yep…unless you don’t mind being disappointed! 😛

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    July 12, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Just my two cents: I’m not sure what you were seeking from this book… A Disney ending? Some sort of gratification or assurance that yes, “life always ends up exactly as you want it!”?

    This is 1950s India. Let’s get real. Seth gave complexity to Lata’s story and handled the story with great nuance. And this was a book of intense and detailed realism. After all, he’s hardly didactic. It’s not always the role of the novelist to make some sort of political or social statement.

    I think it may be the case that he simply wished to tell a story, and he told it pretty damn well!

    • Reply
      Psych Babbler™
      July 15, 2012 at 2:34 am

      Anonymous, I wasn’t expecting a Disney ending. But I was also disappointed with the way it ended. I think when it comes to books, different people look for different things. Some people like yourself are purely happy to read the story. On the other hand, others like me, read certain books particularly in the literary fiction genre to understand themes and see what statements the authors make. And it’s particularly disappointing if a book worth almost 1500 pages doesn’t deliver that. Again, I was not expecting her to necessarily end up with Kabir but why have a protagonist start off so positively only to end it with her conforming to society? She could have chosen another ‘suitable boy’ if it had to be that instead of the one she ended up with.

      In the end, not everyone has to like the same book. I’m sure there are books you don’t like that I probably do and vice versa.

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