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The Simple Act of Reading

Now that the weather is turning cold, the type of book I seek out is one in which I can lose myself on a rainy day.  For this purpose I highly recommend Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy (HarperCollins, 1994).  At 1474 pages (and 2.5 pounds), this is not a book to be picked up lightly.  But this sprawling, absorbing and occasionally comic novel has plenty of rewards for those who do.  It’s surprising— 15 years after the novel was published and 57 after it is set— how many of the themes and events are echoed in today’s headlines from South Asia:  Hindu-Muslim violence, Congress Party politics, and, of course, arranged marriages.  The story is essentially about Lata, our heroine, and her mother’s attempts to find her a “suitable boy.”  Encompassing four extended families, politicians, courtesans, judges, shoemakers, Calcutta high society and Ganges pilgrimages, the connecting threads of this book are a pleasure to discover.  This book reminded me how much pleasure it is possible to get from the simple act of reading.  I ended the novel not exhausted from the length but instead wanting to read more about the characters- and fortunately for me, a sequel has been announced, entitled- what else?- A Suitable Girl.  I’ve ordered a copy for the store in case this sparks interest. Nicola DeRobertis-Theye, UPB Author Events Coordinator.

2 Responses to “The Simple Act of Reading”

  1. Sorayya says:

    Nicola, you’ve definitely sparked my interest. We may have to order another one for the store if I grab the next copy before it hits the shelf!

  2. Stephen Tobias says:

    Alice and I read A Suitable Boy aloud at bedtime. It took months, but we were sad when it ended. Seth’s affection for his characters and his tragicomic sense shine brightly. So does his way of conveying time and place (Bengal soon after independence), seemingly without effort or need to explain. We too became the characters’ friends.

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