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Vikram Seth

A Suitable Boy

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From Publishers Weekly
Seth previously made a splash with his 1986 novel in verse, The Golden Gate. Here he abandons the compression of poetry to produce an enormous novel that will enthrall most readers; those who are fazed by a marathon read, however, may gasp for mercy. Set in the post-colonial India of the 1950s, this sprawling saga involves four families--the Mehras, the Kapoors, the Chatterjis and the Khans--whose domestic crises illuminate the historical and social events of the era. Like an old-fashioned soap opera (or a Bombay talkie), the multi-charactered plot pits mothers against daughters, fathers against sons, Hindus against Muslims and small farmers against greedy landowners facing government-ordered dispossession. The story revolves around independent-minded Lata Mehra: Will she defy the stern order of her widowed upper-caste Hindu mother by marrying the Muslim youth she loves? The search for Lata's husband expands into a richly detailed and exotically vivid narrative that crisscrosses the fabric of India. Seth's panoramic scenes take the reader into law courts, religious processions, bloody riots, academia--even the shoe trade. Portraits of actual figures are incisive; the cameo of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, for example, captures his high-minded, well-meaning indecision. Seth's point of view is both wry and affectionate, and his voluble, palpably atmospheric narrative teems with chaotic, irrepressible life. 100,000 first printing; $200,000 ad/promo; BOMC main selection; QPB alternate; author tour. Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library JournalOpening and closing with a wedding, this novel is ostensibly the story of a Hindu family trying to find a suitable husband for their younger daughter, Lata. Who will the suitable boy turn out to be? The dashing Kabir, with whom Lata falls in love? The ambitious businessman whom Lata's mother favors? Or the sophisticated poet her relatives choose? The interwoven stories of four families linked by marriage form the background for this marital quest. It proves slow-moving at first, but the patient reader will inevitably be caught up in the compelling rhythms of a richly complex tale. The setting--India in the 1950s--is vividly realized: the enormity of the subcontinent, its overpowering heat, lush gardens, colorful festivals, and exotic foods. Memorable characters abound; not since Dickens has there been such a lively and idiosyncratic cast crowded into one novel. Drama is provided by the simmering conflict between Hindu and Muslim, which breaks out unexpectedly throughout the novel. This is old-fashioned storytelling at its best; highly recommended. BOMC and Quality Paperback alternates; previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/93.— Beth Ann Mills, New Rochelle P.L., N.Y.Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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