Mary Drew's Reviews > A Suitable Boy

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
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I first read this when I was in the "Quality Paperback Book Club" which sent you their paperbacks on a monthly or tri-weekly basis or something. Usually they just sent you the book and you were supposed to send them back if you didn't want it. They hoped you would be too lazy to send it back, or you'd spill coffee on it and not be able to. They used to have the same type of thing for records too (The Columbia Record Club!).

Somehow I got in on a deal where they didn't send the book unless I wanted it. This one seemed intriguing so I ordered it. The picture did not really do its 1300+ page bulk justice - the size was a big surprise. But I read it, and it is great. I've tried to read everything else Vikram Seth wrote ever since. I even re-read this book several years later; I kept it and expect to read it again. I don't really keep that many books. Well. I don't think I have that many : )

The setting is India, 1950. It's shortly after Independence from British Rule, Partition (yeah, I didn't know what that was either, until I read the book), and Gandhi's assassination. India is seething amongst these many changes.

The premise of the story is stated in the first chapter during a wedding. The mother turns to the younger sister of the bride and says, "Now we must find a suitable boy for you." And thus begins the story of several families and this younger sister in particular. What makes this book exciting is the underlying theme of cultural change, which is unstated, but unforgettable. Vikram Seth does an excellent job describing conflicting Indian politics, religion, and class, not to mention the time period.

The first time I read it, I skimmed the political action. The second time I read every word. I'm sure I'll get even more out of it the third time I read it. Does anyone want to do a read-along?
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