Jim Grimsley's Reviews > A Suitable Boy

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
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Well, the book clocks in at 1500 pages and begins with an epigram that says, "The secret of being a bore is to say everything." If you choose to read a book that's this big, you should give way to the fact that it expands on everything, lolls about, repeats itself, and eventually includes to do lists and ballot counts from a district of Bengal and bouquets of rhyming couplets. This book expects to have its say and does. I have read fantasy written at this length that suffered from a similar pattern that, for me, this book falls into: the pool of characters broadens to the point that the reader flinches at the mention of every new name because, well, they all have a story. The moment of meeting a new figure in the story introduces increasing levels of fatigue. Characters are reduced to mannerisms for the most part, with significant exceptions like Maan, who lives big and charms everyone and rages with emotion; he is a big, messy, complicated person. Lata, who is the female character occupying the foreground, is equally weighty but so eminently sensible; she falls in love in a sensible but passionate way, emerges from her unsuitable love without more pain than is reasonable, and sees that this is a kind of love that she would prefer to do without. The messy passion of Kabir is less helpful and happy than the steady affection of Hanesh. I took up this novel after seeing the mini-series, which actually does the book justice in most ways. The stories Seth is telling are not so complex that they require the room he allows them so that the book condenses quite well. But the novel in all its breadth is quite worth the time, if you are a fan of enormous thick books. It attempts to be a look at the whole of life as it was lived in this imaginary city over the course of a year or so, to tell the story of its neighborhoods, religious conflicts, politics, government, court decisions, social upheaval, shoemaking, business in general, everything - and it does in fact do this with impressive thoroughness. But the stories go on so long and undergo so many permutations that in the end they no longer feel shaped, and at the end of the book one wonders why it doesn't in fact go on forever. Because one has long since given up on any notion that it will end.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
February 14, 2021 – Shelved

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