One of the advantages of living on the road is less housework, no yard work and more time to read. And, I love it! Even so, deciding to read a book like A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, takes a commitment.
Its physically bigger than a normal novel in size; thicker, as well, at slightly over two inches. And, the print is smaller than a regular novel with a whopping 1474 pages. (Compared below.)
Its the only book I’ve ever read that has the table of contents in poetic form. Also, his tribute and thank you is a delightful poem and I’m going to reprint it here.
A WORD OF THANKS
To these I owe a debt past telling;
My several muses, harsh and kind;
My folks, who stood my sulks and yelling,
And (in the long run) did not mind;
Dead legislators, whose orations
I’ve filched to mix my own potations;
Indeed, all those whose brains I’ve pressed,
Unmerciful, because obsessed;
My own dumb soul, which on a pittance
Survived to weave this fictive spell;
And, gentle reader, you as well,
The fountainhead of all remittance.
Buy me before good sense insists
You’ll strain your purse and sprain your wrists.
I said commitment because even in the motor home where I can easily read a book or two a week, this wonderful story is not a light read. Its a novel surrounding four families, Hindi and Muslim. But more than a novel, it is history, imbued with real people we know. It is set during the 1950’s when India is experiencing Independence from British rule. You experience this book, the clash of generations, from the traditional ways to new ideas; both exciting and painful, exhilarating and difficult. It deals with the politics, religions, social hierarchy, and fascinating traditions of India with its biases, superstitions, varied religious beliefs, death, marriage, mixed marriage, money, laws, agriculture, food, clothing, manners, family relations, work, business, politics…in detail with great warmth and affection. Its a saga that is educational and exciting as you wonder who Lata will marry; the man she loves? Or the man her mother has chosen for her? Will India ever overcome the caste system? Will Muslim and Hindu live peaceably side by side in acceptance? There is so much of the normal upper and middle class here that we never hear about. Its always the teeming slums of Calcutta, or the famous pacifist Mahatma Gandhi that we hear about.
I plan to visit India and I’m so glad I read this book first. Try it, to enhance your understanding and provide you with calamities, gossip, spectacles and excitement that will linger in the mind. Then watch The Slumdog Millionaire, which we did, last night.