Claire S's Reviews > Love Marriage

Love Marriage by V.V. Ganeshananthan
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Love and Marriage: Review

This review may contain spoilers, I didn’t check that box because it isn’t really that kind of book. However if you’re a reader who likes to know things only via the author, and beforehand to know only what’s on the book covers, you probably don’t want to read this.

This novel of a family tapestry woven with many threads including those of terrorism will impact you not due to the intensely sensational nature but instead due to it’s quiet intensity. The aspects of terrorism are some of the most intensely quiet moments of this book, certainly by conscious design.

The book is very tightly structured, reminiscent of a vise - or a straight-jacket; the tone is flat and dry which forms a smooth surface for the wildly dramatic and turbulent content. I will try and keep my review free of excess emotion/words etc.. in response.

My interpretation of the structure of this novel is that it mirrors the structure imposed on a family by those individuals who make certain life choices.
Like when a person chooses a military career, or to be in the police forces, or to be a politician, or to an extent to be a doctor - the family of that person is affected. There is a discipline imposed, a set of actions that are prohibited, a set of actions that are required. There is a format that is imposed - these things happen repeatedly and always this way, those things never happen. The structure of this book - very short chapters, everything told, but told minimally so that what is told does the showing to an extent, voice that is not always clear who it belongs to - requires the reader to adapt in a way perhaps similar to how the family adapts to their life structure.

In this book, a question is asked: is the choice to become a terrorist similar in these ways to the choice to be on the police force or in the military? Can a choice to be a terrorist be valid, if made earnestly and with the best intentions? Of the answer to that were yes, would it still be yes over any range of actions? Or only over certain actions? What about the family of a terrorist - are they still a family? Do the same family-rules apply about love and loyalty and keeping secrets and following rules? How does forgiveness work at the end of such a life?

I feel like at this point I should include a disclaimer of some sort - I don’t agree with this idea, or I don’t feel that way. But I’m not, because this isn’t about me, it’s my review of the work of someone else. She has included in her text all that she wanted to in that vein, any of my own feelings are irrelevant. And would violate the discipline (my German talking, a different word is probably more true) and the rules that are bound in with this book.

This is a piece of fiction, a novel; presented as a memoir of a family from the point of view of a member of that family. That creates also a great deal more work for the reader, as information is presented in a order and a format that is not conducive to rational thought or analysis.. For instance, the struggle of the Tamil Tigers is at first presented as having been triggered by a certain event, then later on more is said about the beginning that might color a person’s perceptions differently. That choice of the author also could be a suggestion about life in such a family - that incomplete information is often all one receives. Reading this actually coincided for me with working in a place in which I never received all relevant information about anything. There, as in this family (or atleast as a reader) the choice is available to feel less in response - knowing that if you knew more, you might feel differently. So in order to feel incorrectly / come to an incorrect conclusion, better sometimes to remain in suspended animation, withhold closure, stay detached. Of course, that detached state makes it easier to do as one is asked without being conflicted also.

This book explores:

Love-Marriages and Arranged-Marriages, Proper Marriages and Improper Marriages, and love: the choices and securities and risks involved with each and whether or not there are other kinds.
Human will and personality and self, constructions of paradigms of self.
The Asian diaspora experience: living in North America with people who aren’t aware of your home country, being different (or being in an enclave and then the same), much more.
Family relationships and emotions: in particular the complexities and power of them.
The Asian residence-at-place-of-birth experience, village life and rituals and customs, discrimination and injustice as well as internal community workings in all their variety.
Terrorism: both exhaustively and incompletely; due to it being voiced as a family member and the terrorist himself. That choice of voice allows for freedom to leave out aspects and go in depth particularly according to choice. A lot of challenging content, with particulars about Sri Lanka, the conflicts between the Tamils and the Sinhalese, and the Tamil Tigers (LTTE - the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, formerly the Tamil New Tigers).
Children and growing up: what effect do the parents’ choices have? What freedom does a person have regarding their opinions/feelings about family history, homeland history and struggles? What about a person who has a family member very involved in a struggle - do they have the same choices then about their opinions/actions? Do they have fewer choices? When are they ok? Always? Only if they obey? Only if they feel inside the correct way? Only if they accept/understand/confirm with their lives the choices/actions of their parents/other family members?
Communities with injustice: What is the best response of the group suffering injustice? Does anything work? If a government is brutal, are they ‘bad’ in the same way that terrorists are ‘bad’? More bad? Less bad?

Many of these subjects are universal, one interesting counterpoint regarding that last set about a child and their choices comes to mind in Freedom Writers, the book and film. It’s very very different situation of course. But the core comparison is between parents who choose their actions/lifestyle vs. parents who didn’t; and what basis that gives the kid for their decision-making as they come into adulthood.

Anyway, this is a rich and complex book which I’m almost certainly not doing justice to. If the topics explored are of interest, I’d encourage you to try it!

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Reading Progress

February 6, 2009 – Shelved
April 22, 2009 –
page 20
6.25% "Time to learn more about Black July and the LTTE."
April 28, 2009 –
page 40
12.5% "Her style itself isn't my favorite ever, but the content will be fascinating. And sadly very timely."
April 28, 2009 –
page 91
28.44% "Ok, she crossed me over. There was a bit of such truth that I'd knew it, far away as I am from it all. Completely in now."
April 29, 2009 –
page 124
38.75% "The tone is all so taut, or prickly. Understandably, given the subject. She presents essence of family, but with an almost strident tone."
April 29, 2009 –
page 144
45.0% "I like how she shares the variation in opinion/response of/about the Tigers among those she describes."
Started Reading
May 1, 2009 –
page 227
70.94% "And she shares every nuance that describes the people she talks about at their core. Is fascinating, really."
May 1, 2009 – Finished Reading

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