At a glance:
- Author: Vikram Seth
- First Published: 1993
- Type of Work: Novel
- Genres: Long fiction
- Subjects: Family or family life, Poverty or poor people, Muslims, India or East Indian people, Aristocracy or aristocrats, Weddings
- Locales: India
Set in Brahmpur, an imaginary Northern Indian city on the banks of the sacred Ganges River, the novel provides a kaleidoscopic picture of Indian life five years after the country gained its independence from Great Britain in 1947. The matriarch of the Mehra family sets the plot into motion during the wedding of her elder daughter, which opens the narrative, when she sets out to find “a suitable boy” for her younger daughter. Once the search gets started, the story expands to reveal the triumphs and trials experienced by members of the three other families connected or related to the Mehras. At the same time the larger world intervenes and a richly textured picture of life on the subcontinent emerges.
Whether politics, religion, industry, university life, medicine, or law is the subject, each aspect is motivated by a character who is first and foremost a member of a family. The novel stresses loyalty to the extended family and considers this involvement as protection against a harsh world. The thirty or so family members along with an array of supporting characters emerge as memorable individuals. While Seth reveals their comic and absurd sides, he always treats them humanely.
In spite of its length and abundant detail, the novel is tightly structured. Most of all, it celebrates life, and suggests that ultimately all people share the same concerns as they experience life and death and birth, and draw strength from family and love. A SUITABLE BOY offers a cross-cultural reading adventure where the reader will discover a familiar depiction of human nature that just happens to unfold in an unfamiliar setting.
Sources for Further Study
The Atlantic. CCLXXI, June, 1993, p.134.
Commonweal. CXX, May 21, 1993, p.25.
Far Eastern Economic Review. CLVI, May 13, 1993, p.50.
London Review of Books. XV, April 22, 1993, p.9.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. May 23, 1993, p.4.
The New Republic. CCVIII, June 14, 1993, p.41.
New Statesman and Society. VI, March 19, 1993, p.40.
The New York Review of Books. XLI, May 27, 1993, p.22.
The New York Times Book Review. XCVIII, May 9, 1993, p.3.
Newsweek. CXXI, May 24, 1993, p.62.
Publishers Weekly. CCXL, May 10, 1993, p.46.
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