This book has left me fairly gobsmacked since the moment I opened it nearly three months ago with its consistency, its heart and its raft of characters who feel like long-time friends, and having now reached the end, I feel like I've discovered one of the books of my lifetime. Like, this book now lives under my skin, in my heart, in my own writing, like 'Anna Karenina' or 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' or any of my other long-time faves.
Obviously, Lata's choice of husband was a disappointment - how could it not be? As Malati and Sam have both pointed out, Lata rejected gold and silver in favour of bronze, and Haresh is...I don't know. I believe Lata will be happy because she's strong and she knows why she's chosen him but at the same time, what a waste. I can't believe she won't be bored with him, but I suppose her expectations of marriage are different to mine, silly Western girl that I am! So much more was required of her and her choice, and I do respect her for facing that head-on.
Throughout this book I've felt that Vikram Seth has been reminding me that life isn't fair and that things don't always work out as you want...but still I kept turning the pages leading up to the wedding thinking 'When will Kabir do something? Where is he?!', forgetting for a time that this book is not resident in modern film parlance but rather 1950s India, which of course is a whole other kettle of fish. Lata is now as old as my grandmother - of course, this is what Seth's upcoming 'A Suitable Girl' is about - and this is a lesson again that times then were perhaps not as selfish and individualistic as they are now. I worry for Lata and I suppose I'm proud of her too. By the way, tell me that she and this book are not real and I'll all but eat your hand.
As with all great books, it's left me humbled, moved and feeling like maybe I don't know much about anything at all, which is often a very liberating thing to feel.
Otherwise, the religious tensions were both shocking and wholly predictable, which gives me little faith that things won't always be the same in that respect. Actually, some of the most powerful aspects of the book speak of non-change in both characters and society: Meenakshi's infidelity remaining secret, intermarriage remaining difficult, people struggling against inequalities of opportunity, PR and class. Also, Firoz and Maan remaining friends even after the stabbing, Saeeda Bai losing out because of her profession, religious and intense familial tensions inevitably ripping the friendship of Mahesh Kapoor and the Nawab Sahib apart - plus ca change! I think I will need days and weeks to fully comprehend all the lessons I have learned.
I shouldn't need to recommend this book to you here, as if you've faced the spoilers you've probably already read it, and if not, hopefully the statement that it's one of the books of my lifetime is recommendation enough. Every second spent with this book was a nourishing feast and I am already beside myself with excitement that 'A Suitable Girl' is hopefully out next year.
My thanks, by the way, to the other readathon participants; read what they think here:
JoV's Book Pyramid
Also, here are my previous books about this readathon: No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3.
Title: 'A Suitable Boy'
Author: Vikram Seth
Publisher: Phoenix House
Format: Hardback, 1349 pages, and my copy is a library book.