Aug 24, 11
Read in January, 2011
"Fascinating, sweeping novel set in 1950s India with wonderful detail and charming, memorable characters. Set against the broad backdrop of a country recently independant from Britain and separated from Pakistan, it is a wonderful perspective on Muslim-Hindu relations, culture, politics, and everyday life.
The main plot concerns Lata Mehra and her mother's search to find her a marriageable man. Lata is in love with an athletic Muslim student, her family likes a witty Bengali poet, and Mrs. Mehra favors an ambitious but uncouth tradesman. Who Lata marries is the major throughline, but it also focuses on Maan, playboy son of a local politician and his affair with a Muslim courtesan. The spiral of interrelated events leads to a wrenching and tense finale.
Another plus are the descriptions of the various holidays and festivals celebrated in India as the novel takes place in just over a year. I was reminded of other epic ""village"" novels such as ""Middlemarch"", ""Anna Karenina"", and ""Germinal,"" all of which are among my favorites. It is loooong, like 1475 pages, so it will not be for everyone. But it is a beautifully crafted, approachable novel (given time and patience), and you will thoroughly enjoy this if you give it a chance."