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astro
12-09-2006, 08:19 AM
A Suitable Boy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Suitable_Boy)

I got this the other day and I must admit the size at over 1300 pages is going to require a serious investment of time if I start plowing into it. Anyone read this book, Is it a worthwhile read?

jjimm
12-09-2006, 08:35 AM
Yes.

It's one of my favourite books ever. Absolutely brilliant, and with clever little touches, like the chapter headings being rhyming couplets, and making up a big poem.

It took me about three months to read, but was well worth it - and when it ended, I had the strange experience of missing the characters like I miss real people, which has never happened before or since.

One word of warning: there are a few longish "history lessons" about India in the early part of the book. The temptation may be to skip over those parts as they don't advance the plot, but I would urge you to perservere, as they provide invaluable background.

twickster
12-09-2006, 09:15 AM
I liked it, but not as much as jjimm did. You'll be able to tell within a couple of chapters whether you want to continue or not -- and if you do, the trip is worth it. I personally like having a long book that I'm living with for a few weeks (or, in this case, perhaps, months). YMMV.

PerditaX
12-09-2006, 09:16 AM
I haven't read it, but Vikram Seth's other novel Golden Gate is one of my all-time favorites. It's a novel entirely in verse! Rhyming iambic tetrameter stanzas (including the acknowledgements, dedication and chapter headings!) but not just gimmicky; it's a beautiful story.

If Seth's prose style is anything close to his verse-narrative, I'd say you've got a winner.

jjimm
12-09-2006, 09:26 AM
If Seth's prose style is anything close to his verse-narrative, I'd say you've got a winner.Actually, his prose style in this book is not as poetic as one would expect. It's very direct and accessible, IMO. However, there are many songs and poems in the book that Seth has either written or translated, that illustrate his gift as a poet. Out of interest, I've just transcribed the chapter headings for Volume One:Browsing through books, two students meet one day.
A mother mopes; a medal melts away.
A courtesan sings coolly through the heat.
A hopeful lover buys a parakeet.
A couple glide down-river in a boat.
A mother hears that mischief is afloat.
Two men discuss the Brahmpur leather trade.
A pair of brogues (maroon) is planned and made.
Blood soaks a lane, and bullets ricochet.
A legislative vixen baits her prey.
A baby kicks; a bloodshot Raja yowls.
A young man speeds downhill; a father growls.
Calcutta simmers in a stew of talk.
A cemetery affords a pleasing walk.

twickster
12-09-2006, 09:53 AM
Ah, that's wonderful. I totally didn't notice that.

jjimm
12-09-2006, 09:56 AM
What's clever about it is that each line deftly describes what happens in the chapter - but the "poem" itself presents no spoilers at all.

According to Pliny
12-09-2006, 10:25 AM
A Suitable Boy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Suitable_Boy)

I got this the other day and I must admit the size at over 1300 pages is going to require a serious investment of time if I start plowing into it. Anyone read this book, Is it a worthwhile read?I don't have to read it to know that if there are any doubts after reading the cover then it is a waste of time.
That said, you can dip in here and there to get a feel for it. On a long epic book, the first chapter is not a good guide, so try the tenth.

hawthorne
12-09-2006, 10:26 AM
It's lovely. There's a charming chapter on the economics of footwear in a country that's dodgy about killing cows. There's lots of Indian/ Victorian middle class stuff. Lots of "knowing I am kind of the observer, kind of the observed" stuff. Plenty of food. Lots about people and place and history.

The Golden Gate is well worth a look, too. I don't know whether I'd be married without it.

eleanorigby
12-09-2006, 11:04 AM
I read this years ago. Some of the images have stayed with me--and I learned alot about India (always a plus). Enjoy it.

anu-la1979
12-09-2006, 01:59 PM
This is one of my absolute favourite books ever. I always recommend it to people. I know some people hate his poetry novel but this book absolutely redeems him for me.

If you like Indian literature I'd suggest Rohinton Mistry after this.

koeeoaddi
12-09-2006, 02:16 PM
What's clever about it is that each line deftly describes what happens in the chapter - but the "poem" itself presents no spoilers at all.
Very cool. Haven't read it yet, but now I'm going to.

If you like long gorgeous poetic novels, may I suggest Winter's Tale, by Mark Helprin?

stargazer
12-09-2006, 09:19 PM
I agree completely with jjimm -- I read it this spring and I absolutely loved it. I'll probably read it again after the holidays, or maybe I'll take it on the plane.

Another Indian book I love -- even more than A Suitable Boy, is The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan. It is completely mesmerizing. It's significantly shorter than A Suitable Boy, and it is the book that got me hooked on Indian fiction.

I say dive right in! If you don't like it, you don't have to finish it (unless you're like me and must know how the story ends...).

gardentraveler
12-09-2006, 09:46 PM
I read A Suitable Boy a while back and loved it. You should definitely give it a try.

GT

AuntiePam
12-09-2006, 09:49 PM
If you like Indian literature I'd suggest Rohinton Mistry after this.

I was going to ask if/how A Suitable Boy compares to Mistry's A Fine Balance, which is wonderful. It's as good as that?

jjimm
12-10-2006, 10:03 AM
I was going to ask if/how A Suitable Boy compares to Mistry's A Fine Balance, which is wonderful. It's as good as that?Definitely approaching it, though I confess that I prefer Mistry's prose style. It has a similar, but larger, epic sweep, but thankfully is nowhere near as heartbreaking.

anu-la1979
12-10-2006, 03:02 PM
AuntiePam, I do think (like jjimm said) that Mistry is a better writer overall.

Aside from that, they're similar in that both Mistry and Seth are exploring the concept of a India at a historical crossroads and the effect that it has on one particular group of people (Seth for post-colonial India and Mistry on the "Emergency"). However, Seth's book is far more wide-sweeping...exploring the interconnections and experiences of an entire family and their connections, while Mistry focuses his POV on a group of 4 people (though he does provide the backstory for all of them).

Mistry's work is more emotionally wrenching in an obvious way though I think it doesn't give Seth enough credit because the heartbreaking aspect of Lata's choice in A Suitable Boy is a pretty subtle one, and frankly, one that I understood only because I happen to come from the culture and see people making it all the time.

Anyway, they're both extremely good books. I did detest Kiran Desai's recent booker winning Inheritance of Loss (if you're following Indian literature written in English).

AuntiePam
12-10-2006, 04:43 PM
Anyway, they're both extremely good books. I did detest Kiran Desai's recent booker winning Inheritance of Loss (if you're following Indian literature written in English).

Well, good. I think I'm getting Amazon gift certificates for Christmas.

What didn't you like about the Desai book?

Dervorin
12-10-2006, 05:00 PM
I have a confession to make: I didn't make it all the way through A Suitable Boy. I did get about three-quarters of the way, and then for some reason the book really started to irritate me. I'm honestly not sure what it was, because everyone I spoke to loved it, and I didn't have any definitive answer to why I disliked it so much.

Perhaps it's time to give it another shot.

araminty
12-10-2006, 06:17 PM
I enjoyed it, but then, I'm quite a fast reader. If I weren't, I can imagine being a little apprehensive.

I also really enjoyed An Equal Music, about a string quartet, lost love, and the music around them. I bought the book with an accompanying CD, featuring the pieces the musicians played.

I haven't read the rhyming novel -- maybe it felt too gimmicky -- but given the love for it, maybe I'll give it a shot.