** spoiler alert ** *spoiler alert*
This was a book where I enjoyed the journey more than the final destination ... and this sounds very odd, considering that the book was 1500 or so pages long. My rating of the book is a little low because I was very angry and annoyed at the end at Lata, as it seems like many Goodreads members are. Seth made us get very attached to the good-looking, dashing Kabir and although I had lost hope for him when we found out he was Muslim in the first couple of hundred pages, since the book was so long I really thought something big was going to happen and these two would end up together.
I understand why Lata moved away from him at the beginning, but I just don't understand her reasons at the end of the book for not choosing him. I think it's because we often subconciously get attached to the first character we are introduced to as the seeming protagonist, and we start to pin our hopes and dreams and excitement related to a book on that character. In A Suitable Boy, although Lata comes around a lot and features in the synopsis of the book at the back cover, it is not right to think of her as the main character. So, I have to come to peace with her decision because I realise that I actually don't like her very much - and Kabir does, indeed, deserve better.
The beauty in A Suitable Boy lies in the multi-dimensional world that Seth has built for us, and of all the characters he brings to the forefront, each richer than the next. These are all people we know, these are people we come to know through the book, and their interactions with each other are so very real. Most interestingly, the way they end up interacting with each other is so organic and authentic that it is simply literary genius.
Don't let the title of the book mislead you. It is not just a story about a mother searching for her perfect son-in-law -- it is the story of a new country coming to terms with its independence and struggling to build its identity. Of Hindus, Muslims, politicians, courtesans, landlords, serfs, the privileged and the struggling. I think if anyone asks me what's a good book to read to start understanding South Asian politics, I will recommend this book.
In the end, I was sad to have finished the book. I wanted to know what happens to Kabir, Maan, Savita and Varun. My favourite characters would have to be the jolly, liberal and volatile Maan and his father, the stern and secular Mahesh Kapoor. Every interaction of the adults with Bhaskar was also a delight to read. There are many more characters in the book: the angry Anglicised Arun, the vacuous Meenakshi, the industrious Haresh, the flighty Amit, the modern Malati, the lovely Pran -- and of course, the dramatic, hilarious, teardrop factory Mrs. Rupa Mehra. I could really write a mini-review on each of these characters, and tell you all about them - they have been described to that extent.
Now that I've reached the end of my review, I kind of wish to increase my rating of the book from 3 stars to 4. However, I will stick to my original feelings.
I am not sure if I recommend this book - this book has been on my father's bookshelf for years and years but I never picked it up because it was so thick. I don't think you should read it if you're not ready for it yet...because the last thing I want anyone to do is stop halfway through the book. Read it when you're ready. Do it on a Kindle like I did because then you don't have to carry a thick book around. But I can honestly say that this book does not feel 1500 pages long, you will absolutely get submerged into the characters' worlds and devour it.
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