Author: Vikram Seth
Paperback: 1349 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins (US), Phoenix House (UK), Little Brown (Canada)
Publication Date: May 1993
Genre: Fictional Novel
Cost: Rs 17 (Kindle edition)
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, multi-ethnic society in flux, A Suitable Boy remains the story of ordinary people caught up in a web of love and ambition, humour and sadness, prejudice and reconciliation, the most delicate social etiquette and the most appalling violence.
The 1349-page novel alternately offers satirical and earnest examinations of national political issues in the period. The novel is divided into 19 parts with, generally, each part focusing on a different subplot.
Set in post-independence India, this book deals with all concepts that governs our daily lives: love, jealousy, hope, despair.
Another prevalent factor is the discussion of Hindu-Muslim community relations. Three of them, the Mehras, Chatterjis, and Kapoors, are related by marriage. The fourth family, the khans, are friends of the Kapoors, large landowners and also, unlike the other three, Muslim. The stories of these families bring in other issues of process of change, the injustice of poverty, and the direction taken in the newly independent and democratic India.
The novel is not only a love story but also a depiction of India. Although it deals with various commonly experienced concepts, the dominating idea remains that of ‘marriage’. The importance of love, marriage, family, caste, relationships are all dissected in this book.
A Suitable Boy further brings up the conflict between arranged marriage and love marriage. Lata raises the question at the wedding of her sister to Pran Kapoor and concludes that it is good for Savita but possibly not good for her.
Religious and cultural differences disallow two different ideologies to live in harmony. It prevented Lata and Kabir from fulfilling their hearts desires for each other. Riots and attacks arise in both sides in the mere name of Religion.
This Indian family saga will hook you up until the last page and indeed gives you a thorough insight into another culture and time in history as it is set in 1948.
Milestones of the Book:
- On 5 November 2019 BBC News included A Suitable Boy on its list of the 100 most Influential Novels.
- The Independent wrote that "the movement and music of the writing in A Suitable Boy take time to absorb, but its unobtrusive, powerfully rational sweetness eventually compels the reader to its way of seeing."
- As of October 2019, a six part TV series adapted from the novel, also titled as A suitable boy, directed by Mira Nair, written by Andrew Davis and starring Tabu, Ishaan Khattar, Tanya Maniktala and Rasika Duggal is in production.
About the Author:
Born in 1952 in Calcutta, India, Vikram Seth was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, Stanford University and Nanjing University.
He has travelled widely and lived in Britain, California, India and China. His first novel, The Golden Gate: A Novel in Verse (1986), describes the experiences of a group of friends living in California. His acclaimed epic of Indian life, A Suitable Boy (1993), won the WH Smith Literary Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best Book). Set in India in the early 1950s, it is the story of a young girl, Lata, and her search for a husband. An Equal Music (1999) is the story of a violinist haunted by the memory of a former lover. Vikram Seth is also the author of a travel book, From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet (1983), an account of a journey through Tibet, China and Nepal that won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, and a libretto, Arion and the Dolphin: A Libretto (1994), which was performed at the English National Opera in June 1994, with music by Alec Roth. His poetry includes Mappings (1980), The Humble Administrator's Garden (1985), winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Asia), and All You Who Sleep Tonight: Poems (1990). His children's book, Beastly Tales from Here and There (1992), consists of ten stories about animals told in verse.
Vikram Seth's latest works include Two Lives (2005), a memoir of the marriage of his great uncle and aunt, and Summer Requiem (2015), a book of poems.