Jun 14, 07
those interested in Indian literature and society, people with strong wrists and long plane flights
Read in May, 2007
This book combines Jane Austen's sensitivity to the nuances of social interaction and compelling characters with a Tolstoyesque interest in every social, political, economic and religious detail pertaining to the greater world of the plot. Lata, the main character, is a college student in Brahmpur in the 1950s whose mother is determined to marry her off to some nice middle-class boy (hence the title), but the 1400+ novel (one of the longest ever published in English) often ignores her for chapters at a stretch as it follows the socialites, english professors, shoemakers, courtesans, mathematicians, politicians and ascetics who make up her social milieu.
Some of the political stuff towards the end dragged on, and though it was very interesting to learn about Indian politics after the death of Gandhi (which I knew nothing about), these passages recalled to me the tedious grouse-hunting episodes in Anna Karenina which have twice foiled my attempts to read that book through to the end. The rest of it was very good, though, or at least I felt compelled to read it all the time. It felt a bit like getting three seasons of a very engaging mini-series on dvd; in fact I'm really surprised that there seem to have been no attempts to movieize it, I'd watch it over Lost any day.