A Suitable Boy: A Novel

A Suitable Boy: A Novel

by Vikram Seth

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Overview

Vikram Seth's novel is, at its core, a love story: Lata and her mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra, are both trying to find — through love or through exacting maternal appraisal — a suitable boy for Lata to marry. 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060786526
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/04/2005
Series: Perennial Classics
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 1488
Sales rank: 216,431
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 2.38(d)

About the Author

Vikram Seth has written acclaimed books in several genres: verse novel, The Golden Gate; travel book, From Heaven Lake; animal fables, Beastly Tales; epic fiction, A Suitable Boy. His most recent novel, An Equal Music, was published in 1999. He lives in England and India.

Hometown:

Delhi, India; and Salisbury, England

Date of Birth:

June 20, 1952

Place of Birth:

Calcutta, West Bengal, India

Education:

B.A., Oxford University, 1975; M.A., Stanford University, MA 1978; Nanjing University Diploma, 1982

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

'You too will marry a boy I choose,' said Mrs Rupa Mehra firmly to her younger daughter.

Lata avoided the maternal imperative by looking around the great lamp-lit garden of Prem Nivas. The wedding-guests were gathered on the lawn. 'Hmm,' she said. This annoyed her mother further.

'I know what your hmms mean, young lady, and I can tell you I will not stand for hmms in this matter. I do know what is best. I am doing it all for you. Do you think it is easy for me, trying to arrange things for all four of my children without His help?' Her nose began to redden at the thought of her husband, who would, she felt certain, be partaking of their present joy from somewhere benevolently above. Mrs Rupa Mehra believed, of course, in reincarnation, but at moments of exceptional sentiment, she imagined that the late Raghubir Mehra still inhabited the form in which she had known him when he was alive: the robust, cheerful form of his early forties before overwork had brought about his heart attack at the height of the Second World War. Eight years ago, eight years, thought Mrs Rupa Mehra miserably.

'Now, now, Ma, you can't cry on Savita's wedding day,' said Lata, putting her arm gently but not very concernedly around her mother's shoulder.

'If He had been here, I could have worn the tissue-patola sari I wore for my own wedding,' sighed Mrs Rupa Mehra. 'But it is too rich for a widow to wear.

' 'Ma!' said Lata, a little exasperated at the emotional capital her mother insisted on making out of every possible circumstance. 'People are looking at you. They want to congratulate you, and they'll think it very odd if they see you cryingin this way.'

Several guests were indeed doing namasté to Mrs Rupa Mehra and smiling at her; the cream of Brahmpur society, she was pleased to note.

'Let them see me!' said Mrs Rupa Mehra defiantly, dabbing at her eyes hastily with a handkerchief perfumed with 4711 eau-de-Cologne. 'They will only think it is because of my happiness at Savita's wedding. Everything I do is for you, and no one appreciates me. I have chosen such a good boy for Savita, and all everyone does is complain.'

Lata reflected that of the four brothers and sisters, the only one who hadn't complained of the match had been the sweet-tempered, fair-complexioned, beautiful Savita herself.

'He is a little thin, Ma,' said Lata a bit thoughtlessly. This was putting it mildly. Pran Kapoor, soon to be her brother-in-law, was lank, dark, gangly, and asthmatic.

'Thin? What is thin? Everyone is trying to become thin these days. Even I have had to fast the whole day and it is not good for my diabetes. And if Savita is not complaining, everyone should be happy with him. Arun and Varun are always complaining: why didn't they choose a boy for their sister then? Pran is a good, decent, cultured khatri boy.'

There was no denying that Pran, at thirty, was a good boy, a decent boy, and belonged to the right caste. And, indeed, Lata did like Pran. Oddly enough, she knew him better than her sister did--or, at least, had seen him for longer than her sister had. Lata was studying English at Brahmpur University, and Pran Kapoor was a popular lecturer there. Lata had attended his class on the Elizabethans, while Savita, the bride, had met him for only an hour, and that too in her mother's company.

'And Savita will fatten him up,' added Mrs Rupa Mehra. 'Why are you trying to annoy me when I am so happy? And Pran and Savita will be happy, you will see. They will be happy,' she continued emphatically. 'Thank you, thank you,' she now beamed at those who were coming up to greet her. 'It is so wonderful--the boy of my dreams, and such a good family. The Minister Sahib has been very kind to us. And Savita is so happy. Please eat something, please eat: they have made such delicious gulabjamuns, but owing to my diabetes I cannot eat them even after the ceremonies. I am not even allowed gajak, which is so difficult to resist in winter. But please eat, please eat. I must go in to check what is happening: the time that the pandits have given is coming up, and there is no sign of either bride or groom!' She looked at Lata, frowning. Her younger daughter was going to prove more difficult than her elder, she decided.

'Don't forget what I told you,' she said in an admonitory voice.

'Hmm,' said Lata. 'Ma, your handkerchief's sticking out of your blouse.'

'Oh!' said Mrs Rupa Mehra, worriedly tucking it in. 'And tell Arun to please take his duties seriously. He is just standing there in a corner talking to that Meenakshi and his silly friend from Calcutta. He should see that everyone is drinking and eating properly and having a gala time.'

'That Meenakshi' was Arun's glamorous wife and her own disrespectful daughter-in-law. In four years of marriage Meenakshi's only worthwhile act, in Mrs Rupa Mehra's eyes, had been to give birth to her beloved granddaughter, Aparna, who even now had found her way to her grandmother's brown silk sari and was tugging it for attention. Mrs Rupa Mehra was delighted. She gave her a kiss and told her:

'Aparna, you must stay with your Mummy or with Lata Bua, otherwise you will get lost. And then where would we be?'

'Can't I come with you?' asked Aparna, who, at three, naturally had views and preferences of her own.

'Sweetheart, I wish you could,' said Mrs Rupa Mehra, 'but I have to make sure that your Savita Bua is ready to be married. She is so late already.'

Reading Group Guide

In mid-century India, Mrs. Rupa Mehra is on a quest. Her youngest daughter Lata remains unmarried, and the widowed Mrs. Mehra has decided to rectify the condition by enlisting friends and relatives to help her find Lata "A Suitable Boy."

Families form the backbone of the novel, as the story revolves around four deeply intertwined clans, three Hindu and one Muslim. The Kapoors represent the Hindi-speaking elite, gaining ascendancy through politics, while the middle-class, Anglicized Mehras firmly believe in the superiority of convent schools, English literature and proper manners. The Chatterjis, eccentric and rather scandalous members of the Bengali intelligentsia, indulge in rhyming couplets and coddle a manic dog named Cuddles, as the Muslim, landowning Khans face legislation that threatens to dissolve their culture and Urdu language along with all feudal land-holdings.

Through these people, Vikram Seth vividly recreates life in post-colonial India, a subcontinent trying to find its bearings, and to reconcile differing religions and languages in one national identity, as it stands on the brink of its first general election. A Suitable Boy is both social satire and social history, a novel whose scope ranges from the politics of a great man to the maneuvering of a mother, from an epic account of a nation at infancy to the torment of a young girl in love.

Questions for Discussion

1. Consider Maan Kapoor's love for Saeeda Bai, and that of Lata Mehra's for Kabir Durrani. Why are these relationships highly unsuitable? In what ways do Lata's three suitors, Kabir, Amit and Haresh, represent three vastly different aspects of love, and equally different options for her future? Did Lata have a choice when she accepted Haresh Khanna, a man "as solid as a pair of Goodyear Welted shoes"? How does the novel navigate the conflict between culturally conservative 50s India and the young people trying to break free of the existing system without dishonoring their parents?

2. What criteria does Rupa Mehra use to assess potential prospects for Lata? How does each of the seven candidates compiled by Kalpana Gaur fare? Were you surprised by her prejudices? How do Lata and her mother eventually come to agree upon the same candidate?

3. The stampede at Pul Mela leaves Dipankar Chatterji's search for, "great concepts and great gods" severely shaken. "Baba, how do you explain all this?" he asks a guru, who mildly replies, "I think there was a flaw in the administrative arrangements." Do you think the guru speaks for the author at that moment? How is religion portrayed in A Suitable Boy?

4. Two political-historical events figure prominently in A Suitable Boy: the Zamindari Abolition Act, whereby all feudal land-holdings were dissolved, and the general elections held in 1952, the largest democratic election ever held in the world at the time. How do these two events symbolize the transformation of India into a modern nation?

5. Consider the central dialectic of the novel: the tension between established social order and the centrifugal forces that threaten to fragment that order. What disruptive forces did the old social structure of Rajas and Zamindars face? From landowners faking records to electioneering misdeeds, what other forces attempt to fragment the new social order? Is there an overriding philosophy in the novel that makes constant turmoil bearable? Does traditional, neglected old Mrs. Kapoor's faith, which does not undermine other creeds, provide a template for harmony?

6. Maan Kapoor thinks that for his own sake, Rasheed must "see the world with all its evil in a more tolerant light. It was not true that one could change everything through effort and vehemence and will. The stars maintained their courses despite his madness, and the village world moved on as before, swerving only very slightly to avoid him." How does this theme, of cosmic indifference to the desires of man, echo throughout the novel? In what manner does Rasheed exemplify of the futility of assuming otherwise?

7. Although Gandhi passed a constitutional provision abolishing untouchability, the results were more symbolic than practical. However, the untouchable shoemaker, Jagat Ram believes "that the victory for its formulation lay less with Mahatma Gandhi, who rarely concerned himself with such legalisms, than with quite another - and equally courageous - man." Who does Jagat Ram believe in? How does this character break taboos by refusing to be cowed by social proprieties, and simply following his innate decency? Why is this method for social change more effective than Rasheed's?

8. How would you describe the friendship between Maan Kapoor and Firoz Khan? Are there signs that they may be more than friends? Do they represent hope for amicable relations between differing religions? How does Maan's evolution from callow youth to a thoughtful, repentant adult embody the notion that salvation lies in the private world of marriage and family?

9. Could the Raja of Marh's attempt to raise the Shiva-linga be viewed as a metaphor? In a chapter that includes a tragic misunderstanding between Lata and Kabir, the self-serving machinations of Professor Mishra, Waris Khan's slanderous election posters, and Mahesh Kapoor's crushing defeat, what is the significance of the last sentence - "the Shiva-linga rested on the bed of the Ganga once more, the turbid waters passing over it, its bloodstains slowly washed away?"

10. How does the author's use of a third-person, fully-omniscient narrator successfully convey an intricately variegated, yet determinedly un-exotic, Indian reality? Consider the author's wry, affectionate, self-deprecating poetic word of thanks to the reader. Is it possible to extrapolate the author's point of view from the style and tone of these lines of verse?

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A Suitable Boy 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a most incredible book. It was so fascinating on a cultural level i.e., the Indian culture explained to a non-Indian in terms that one could relate to. In addition, it was a terrific story with some wonderful characters. Some things that happen in life happen to everyone cross the board no matter what your cultural heritage and this book is proof that we all have shared experiences. My daughter read it an passed it on to me and I in turn passed it on to numerous friends who have enjoyed it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Seth's fluid style of writing provides for an interesting and captivating novel. His use of character developement and the way he ties the people and places together is commendable. It is a bit heavy with it's 1474 pages and the political chapters (about two of them) are a bit boring, but overall it was a great book. Very high praise for A Suitable Boy
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book when it first came out (I think the mid- to-late 1990s) and could not put it down (could hardly lift it up, too, it's a BIG book). Wonderful, engrossing story and characterizations. If you want to dive in and lose yourself in the lives of people that seem to become real rather than remain fictional, this is the book in which to do it. Highly recommended. Enjoy!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If there was a book that everyone should read this is it, one of the most amazing books I have ever read.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Don't be put off by the size of this book, it's very readable. Starting out with an inter-faith love affair, it opens out into a massive panorama covering a wide variety of issues in post-war India. Educational as well as entertaining.
Smiler69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'll start with the end (no spoilers, promise!): I enjoyed the book once I finished it. The reading of it was another matter altogether. First, the obvious problem of size and weight, which made for physical discomfort. As happens all too often when I decide to dig into hefty books, I felt like so much of it could have been edited out without losing much of the flavour, plot and indeed, probably adding much enjoyment for the reader. On the whole I felt that Seth was writing for his own pleasure. Not a bad thing in itself, but it seemed like he became so enamoured with his research that he felt compelled to put every little bit of it VERBATIM into the manuscript with no regard for the reader. Did we really need to read about cricket in so much tedious detail? Or have the finer points of Indian constitution circa 1951 spelled out in quite so many words? Or be privy to the inner workings of the sister of the cousin of the wife of the rickshaw driver (I exaggerate, but only slightly)? The answer according to this reader is a resounding NO. Other than that, it was a good story which gave me a good sense of life in mid-century India, with all it could possibly encompass and then some. The main characters and story were a joy to discover and spend some time with, which is why I gave it three stars (generous, considering how annoyed at Seth I was for refusing to cut down on word count).
fieldsli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This huge saga takes place in post-colonial India and revolves around the efforts of the overly-protective widow, Mrs. Mehra, to find a "suitable" mate for her youngest daughter, Lata. The characters, of which there are many, are likable, the story compelling, and the time and place complex and exotic. Even though this is long read, if you have to take a break, it's as easy as returning to a favorite soap and just as pleasurable.
michael09 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderful world to lose yourself in; although in some ways this seems almost like "chick-lit" in India, Seth covers a huge range of scenes with almost invariable sympathy for all sides. Technical discussion of constitutional law, life in peasant villages, conversational style among senior politicians, Seth is amazingly convincing in each.
solla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It seems to me an amazing feat, as a writer, simply to be able to keep all the threads of a story clear through 1500 pages, but, of course, Vikram Seth does a lot more. The book never lost my interest from the first chapter when I quickly became involved with Lata,(the just slightly younger sister of the woman being married in chapter one, who is being told by her mother that she too will marry a boy of her mother's choice) and her whole web of relationships.One level of the novel is, of course, the personal stories, and Seth does a good job of presenting people in their complexity. Besides Lata, I was also very caught up in the drama(s) of Maan, the son of a politician who seems a sort of lazy, charming wastral at the beginning, but gains in character as the novel progresses, despite his troubles; of Haresh who is making his way in the world through his own resources and hard work in the shoe business, despite it's association with the lower class; of Bhaskar, the 9 year old math prodigy; and Rasheed who does his best to bring justice to his village and suffers for it, among others.Another level is the presence of family, and their influence. It might be difficult in the U.S. for someone with a good relationship to their family to go against their wishes to marry whom you like, but nonetheless we see it as an individual decision. And probably, most of us, hold a romantic relationship/marriage relationship as being individual and of more important than any other aside from parent/child. It is not only the influence of family on relationship choices that Seth makes clear, but also, a different attitude towards "passion" in a relationship. Nonetheless, Lata does not feel very different from any other young woman, and so it is easier to enter into her values.The time period of the novel is just after Indian independence and the partition of Pakistan and India. There are many cultural and political events that we experience from the point of view of characters in the novel, such as the violence of partition (although this is retrospective in the novel) and the resulting tension between Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, etc., the efforts to distribute land from big landowners to the peasants who actually work the land, the divisions that occurred between factions in the Congress party and the election of 1952. It is interesting to get the sort of home grown view of Nehru.Once I finished the novel, I started reading India after Gandhi and although I haven't gotten very far, already it has been enriching to have the novel in my head as I read about the same historical events and personalities in a history.This is a very rich book, and, even at the very end, I felt I would have enjoyed reading even more about these characters.
-Eva- on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have a feeling (just a hunch, nothing verified) that when Vikram Seth set out to write this novel, he started with a brainstorming session where he wrote down every little detail about India he could think of. And then he put them all in this 1,474-page tome. And not in an unskilled manner either. He quite successfully manages to introduce the reader to 1950s Indian public/political life and private/family life and blending the two into a cohesive whole.While following the four main families through a year, the reader is introduced to a variety of details about foods, parties, markets, trains, arguments, business meetings, shopping, artists, political meetings, bus rides, myths, cricket games, holidays, music, religions (of all kinds), cities, poor people, traditions, poetry, friendships, love, plants, folktales, scents, countryside, colors, books, rich people, professions, etc. All wrapped up in a web of family intrigue, connections, marriages, children, and love.It's quite a ride. For almost 1,500 pages. It's a great ride, but it's looong. I have to admit, I skimmed some of the political meetings and discussions, but that's a personal choice - if you like politics, those parts may be the most interesting to you. To me, the most fascinating parts were those describing the various holidays and customs and the foods. My favorite character was Maan - probably because he's such a brat that I just had to like him and when he finally starts to change and mature, I felt I was rewarded and that I was right in liking him to begin with. I'd read a separate book about just Maan. Lata is a great character too, but at the end I wanted to smack her for making the choice she makes, but that just means that Seth has managed to make me very emotionally invested in his character! I'm definitely going to read more of Seth's writing - something a little shorter next time, though.
ParadisePorch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set during an 18-month period in 1950-51 India, just a few years after Partition, it involves several families of the upper Hindu castes, and a Muslim family. The story was decent and the class perspective a different one than I had encountered in the past, but it was just plain too long.At 1,349 pages in hardcover (1,488 in the paperback that I read), this is one of the longest English language novels ever written. Was it worth two weeks of my life? Meh, I don¿t think so. 4 stars
DrJohnny on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Early in 2010 I read a comment by Alexander McCall Smith (of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books) that one of his goals for the year was to finish A Suitable Boy. It had been in his brief case and around the world with him for about 8 years; he just needed to finish it. I was inspired by his goal; my copy of A Suitable Boy had been in a pile of books to be read or partially read in the bedroom, probably for about 8 years. I accomplished my adopted goal for 2010, and rather liked the book. I can't tell you many of the specifics about the book because it is about 1500 pages long, and I read it over, maybe, 8 years. The generalities, however are:*** wonderful descriptions of life in India, several urban and rural areas ... both big cities and little towns in the country, and in rich areas as well as extreme poverty,*** explorations of the political system, and politicians,*** repeated examples of the incredibly complex social customs of the country (at one point one of the daughters of the main family in the book asks if it is really necessary to send birthday cards to "third cousins, thrice removed"), and*** many many other interesting stories and facts that make it quite worthwhile to invest 8 years in reading this book, unless you are a faster reader that McCall Smith and I are.
Smits on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Such a big book .1474 pages. I liked most of it but way toodetailed. What I did enjoy was the culture and the mindset of the characters. I loved Mrs Rupa Mehra.
jwhenderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a novel of India set in the early 1950s just after the partition, Vikram Seth's 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 immediately arresting 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. Without disclosing the plot details I can only assure the reader that it is worth all 1400 plus pages. The thematic development of the clash between Hindu and Muslim cultures is particularly well portrayed with the impact of historical events on the national level mirrored by dramatic events among the main families whose lives fill the plot and subplots of the novel. It is rare that such a long book is both an entertaining read and an intellectually satisfying challenge. Vikram Seth has succeeded in both areas.
scribblerjee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
How can a 1,400-page book fail to develop characters adequately? Somehow Seth manages it. This is a Victorian-era yarn of the worst sort, too full of cookie-cutter characters (seemingly hundreds of them) and turgid plot development. The high point is the exploration of communalist (Hindu-Muslim) strife, but even this isn't particularly acute. The passages on Untouchable shoemakers are told with a tinge of middle-class disgust and then forgotten about, whilst nobody would dream of committing sati over any of the dull prospective suitors. All the clumsy Dickensian caricatures are there: the weepy, unreflective mother; the sweet, thoughtful heroine; the clumsily portrayed oh-so-unviable suitor; the self-made man - but Seth's vaguely whimsical take fails to keep the momentum moving. Grotesquely overlong.
Joycepa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.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. 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.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.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.One minor flaw that is from time to time irritating: Seth uses a large number of Hindi words for all sorts of th
piefuchs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderful story (well actually there were several wonderful a stories and a dud or two) and an engrosing and addictive read. By the end of this large tome you have also learned a fair amount about Indian culture and history. I did find that some of the characters were interesting and well developed and tended to want to skip chapters to get back to them. It is missing a fifth star because pales in comparison to "A Fine Balance" and a few other truly great novels. It is more of a great way to pass time than a way to learn more about yourself.
earthfriendly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Despite how long this book is, I couldn't put it down and read it in about a week. It's a wonderful story, although I was so unhappy with the ending I tried to throw the book across the room (it didn't go far, it's too heavy.) One of my favorite things about the book is that the author obviously enjoys playing with language. Despite the length and unsatisfying ending I would read it again.
awriteword on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is not for the light reader; it is nearly 2,000 pages and involves a lot of detailed politics of the newly democratic India. However, for those who enjoy learning new things from their novels, or love novels that take the time to fully develop a whole cast of characters, this book will enchant."A Suitable Boy" is a generational story that takes place in India shortly after the death of Gandhi. It closely tracks the lives of several extended families who are joined together through love, honor, friendship, politics, history, and marriage. Vikram Seth delves into the minds of his heroines with an accurate intimacy and poignancy that is rare. His heroes have flaws and strengths, and before long, all of the characters in the novel begin to feel like members of your own family.The main thread of the novel belongs to Lata Mehra. She is a college student whose mother has decided that it is time for her to marry. Her life touches the lives of nearly all of the other characters in the book. But the quest for a suitable boy for Lata is only one of the stories that unfolds. Another is the story of friendship between two families of diametrically opposing views, or the story of a young man's maturation, or the tales of love lost, of religious freedoms and tolerance, of the political evolution of one of the largest democratic countries in the world, and of every day life in India in the late 1950s.I highly recommend reading this book. I felt lost and saddened when I came to the end of it, because I had gotten so used to spending time with the Mehras, Chattergis, and Kapoors every day, and suddenly, this relationship is at an end. So pick it up at your local book shop--you'll be glad you did. You can tell Lata and Mahn than I miss them.
Nyota24 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had been moving this large heavy book from place to place to place until last year's 1000+ page challenge at BookCrossing. Once I started to read it, I found myself a world away in 1950s India. Seth's descriptions are wonderfully done, and the locations felt properly foreign to me, but not so foreign that I became lost in the unfamiliar language. I learned a lot of history as I read (although I confess to skimming some of the politics, as I did with Anna Karenina), and I loved Seth's characters. I turned page 1348 fully expecting -- and wanting -- to see even more story.
4inmysteryreader More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books I have ever read.  The characters a believable, and the cultural background, absorbing. 
jeisen More than 1 year ago
This was a beautifully written book full of life and color. Although it was long, it maintained my interest throughout. Definitely recommend for those wanting a taste of something exotic.
chris51 More than 1 year ago
I like the way this plays out. About four families in India that live mostly in older times. A long book that will take some time but it has a wonderful story line. Author is a great story teller. keeps your interest peaked.
Booky_McReaderson More than 1 year ago
I feel as though Indian novels are wonderful opportunities for rich culture, complex interpersonal relationships, great comedy, and profound moral and ethical challenges. This novel has all of that. The stories, "sights" (in my mind's eye), smells (again), textures, and tastes have all remained with me long, long after I finished the book. Vikram Seth allows the characters to make realistic choices, rather than storybook choices, and that makes me respect this novel all the more.
Shaday09 More than 1 year ago
Definitely one of the longest novels I have ever read (1349 pages). This book is one of the books on the BBC's Top 100 books list. It took me until about page 400 to become interested in this book, so it is a little slow starting. A book I recommend readers not to try and read through one sitting, because this book is best broken up. The setting of the book is India. The plot of the book is that a mother is searching for a suitable boy to marry her daughter (Lata); therefore, readers follow her journey through four families over a span of a year and a half. The novel is divided into 19 parts based on whose story line the readers is reading. At times it can get confusing, and at time one can definitely become overwhelmed with all the details portrayed in this book. For me, the book was definitely about 400 pages too long, but the book definitely tested my reading endurance. However it is through the details that the reader is immersed into the Indian culture and politics. Personally I would have chosen a different suitor for Lata. I have been informed that a sequel to this book is coming out soon called A Suitable Girl.