Thursday, January 31, 2008

A SUITABLE BOY by Vikram Seth

The Book: Vikram Seth, A SUITABLE BOY. HarperPerennial trade paperback reprint, 1994. Very good condition; remainder mark on bottom width of pages, spine slightly cracked, pages slightly age-browned.
First read: 1993
Owned since: 1995 (this copy)

Sorry I didn't post yesterday. I just want to say, if any of you haven't gotten a flu shot yet this year, go get one. I'm sorry I didn't. Although I'm mostly recovered -- I'm not nearly as congested, I can talk, and I'm not coughing my lungs out anymore -- I still feel like I'm getting over a beating. I went out with friends yesterday morning, and spent the rest of the day sleeping. This morning I am awake, but still not back to normal. Flu is a big deal. Now I know.

Anyway, this book is one of my favorites, and I meant to blog about it yesterday because yesterday was the 60th anniversary of Gandhi's assassination. Gandhi has nothing directly to do with the events of A Suitable Boy, but his leadership and martyrdom did lead to the independence of India and the creation of a society that provides the backdrop for the middle-class dramas (and comedies) of the book.

A Suitable Boy was compared to Dickens when it was published, because it's 1,474 pages long (in this edition), and weaves stories of multiple families and spheres. At its heart, it is the story of Mrs. Rupa Mehra's efforts to find a suitable husband for her college-educated daughter, Lata, in 1950s India. In this, as in its generosity of spirit and goodwill toward even its villains, the book resembles Jane Austen as much as it does Dickens.

But it's Seth's book, and it's a spectacular achievement. This is the second copy of the book I've owned; I gave the first one to my mother, who read it and then passed it on to one of her friends. I've read it at least three times, and as I flip through the pages I find myself wishing I had time to reread it again now.

India's on my short list of places I'd like to visit, and if I ever get there, I hope I still recognize Seth's world.

Five Random Songs (since I missed them yesterday)

"Family Life," The Blue Nile. From Peace at Last, which I got for Christmas with the iTunes gift card Chris gave me. Thanks, Chris!

"Strange Magic," ELO. Not all ELO is good -- this track probably should have been left in the 1970s.

"Target," Joe Jackson. From that ode to urban joy, hope, rage and paranoia, Night and Day.

"She's a Superstar," Buddy Guy. I have a couple of different versions of this song, but this one is from the soundtrack to Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead. Which you should see, if you haven't.

"Rat Race," The Specials. From the great Two-Tone Collection: A Checkered Past, for which I am indebted to my brother-in-law Scott. Thanks, Scott!


Anna said...

I loved loved loved this book. I got tired of throw-away paperbacks on my big trip and bought this in Australia thinking it would take me the rest of the trip to read. Who knows how many sights I missed by sitting in my room just reading this book for two weeks! Although, I haven't met one person who would recommend India as a travel destination. And I am certainly not a spoiled, unadventurous traveler. With (almost) two kids now, I will likely never make it there.

Anonymous said...

My goodness
didn't realize you were so knocked out

Get Well


Anonymous said...

"India's on my short list of places I'd like to visit, and if I ever get there, I hope I still recognize Seth's world."

Don't worry, you will!

This book didn't do as much for me as I had hoped. It looked so promising--much like SACRED GAMES by Vikram Chandra.


Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear you have been hit by the flu bug! Take care of yourself. Drink hot tea and honey (does anybody really do that)!? It sounds comforting. Glad you're on the mend. Is it snowing? Today is Audrey's born day...did you get my e-mail? LOve,
Aunt Debbie

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm hoping for some literary help! I seem to recall a passage within Suitable Boy which talks about life without love being like an ocean without fish and being lonely without that fish...does this ring any bells with anyone? I am doing a reading at my brother's wedding and I immediately thought of this passage, but can't find it again in ASB so thought I may be going mad! I'd be grateful for any help with this...Does anyone know of this passage and where it is in the book? Thanks JT.