A Suitable Boy
First US edition
Phoenix House (UK)
Little, Brown (Canada)
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
|LC Class||PR9499.3.S38 S83 1993|
|Followed by||A Suitable Girl|
A Suitable Boy is a novel by Vikram Seth, published in 1993. At 1349 pages (1488 pages softcover) and 591,552 words, the book is one of the longest novels ever published in a single volume in the English language. A sequel, to be called A Suitable Girl, is due for publication in 2016.
A Suitable Boy is set in post-independence, post-partition India. The novel follows the story of four families over a period of 18 months as a mother searches for a suitable boy to marry her daughter.
The 1349-page novel alternatively offers satirical and earnest examinations of national political issues in the period leading up to the first post-Independence national election of 1952, including inter-sectarian animosity, the status of lower caste peoples such as the jatav, land reforms and the eclipse of the feudal princes and landlords, academic affairs, inter - and intra-family relations and a range of further issues of importance to the characters.
A Suitable Boy centres on Mrs. Rupa Mehra's efforts to arrange the marriage of her younger daughter, Lata, with a "suitable boy". At its heart the novel is a love story, set in newly-independent India. It begins in the fictional town of Brahmpur, located on the Ganges between Banares and Patna. Brahmpur, along with Calcutta, Delhi, Kanpur and other Indian cities, forms a colourful backdrop for the emerging stories.
Lata is a 19-year-old university student; vulnerable, yet strong-willed: not be influenced by her rather dominating mother or opinionated brother, Arun. Her story revolves around the choice she is forced to make between her suitors, Kabir, Haresh, and Amit.
The novel has many interwoven plot lines, covering various issues faced by post-independence India, including Hindu-Muslim strife, abolition of the Zamindari system, land reforms and the changing lives of Muslim women.
The novel is divided into 19 parts with, generally, each part focusing on a different subplot. Each part is described in rhyming couplet form on the contents page.
Characters in A Suitable Boy
The four main families in the novel are:
- The Mehras - Mrs. Rupa Mehra, a mother searching for a suitable boy for her daughter. Arun, Savita, Varun and Lata - Mrs. Mehra's four children.
- Arun is married to Meenakshi Chatterji, Savita to Pran Kapoor.
- Lata is Mrs. Rupa Mehra's youngest child.
- The Kapoors - Mr. Mahesh Kapoor, Mrs. Mahesh Kapoor and their 3 children Veena, Pran (married to Savita Mehra) and Maan.
- The Khans - The Nawab Sahib of Baitar and his 3 children Zainab, Imtiaz and Firoz.
- The Chatterjis - Mr. Justice Chatterji and Mrs. Chatterji and their children Amit, Meenakshi (married to Arun Mehra), Dipankar, Kakoli and Tapan
- Kabir Durrani - a love interest of Lata, and a central hub of one of the main themes of the novel. His father is a respected, charmingly bumbling, maths teacher at the university that both Kabir and Lata attend. Kabir is a highly successful player on the university cricket team. Lata and Kabir have a brief, intense courtship; the ramifications of which echo through the rest of the novel.
- Haresh Khanna, an enterprising and determined shoe-businessman, who is also a love interest of the heroine.
- Amit Chatterji - is Justice Chatterji's eldest son and internationally acclaimed poet and author. Again, a prominent love interest of Lata.
Four family trees are provided in the beginning of the novel to help readers keep track of the complicated interwoven family networks.
Some other prominent characters, not mentioned above, include:
- Malati, best friend of Lata
- Aparna, daughter of Meenakshi and Arun
- Kedarnath Tandon, married to Veena (née Kapoor)
- Mrs Tandon
- Bhashkar Tandon, son of Veena and Kedarnath
- Hashim Durrani, Kabir's brother
- Dr Durrani, mathematician
- Saeeda Bai
- Tasneem, sister of Saeeda Bai
- Bibbo, servant at Saeeda Bai's
- Rasheed, student at Brahmpur University, Tasneem's Arabic teacher
- Ishaq, sarangi player
- S S Sharma, Chief Minister
- Agarwal, home minister
- Priya, his daughter
- Simran, a Sikh woman and former love interest of Haresh Khanna
- Kalpana Gaur, friend of the Mehra family
- Billy Irani, friend of Arun Mehra
- Shireen, his girlfriend
- Bishwanath Bhaduri
- Abdus Salam
- Raja of Marh
- Rajkumar of Marh
- Dr Bilgrami
- Professor Mishra, an English professor
- Dr Ila Chattopadhay, an English professor
- Hans, an Austrian diplomat
- Begum Abida Khan, politician
- The Guppi, inhabitant of Salimpur
- Netaji, Rasheed's uncle
- Makhijani, indulgent poet
- Sandeep Lahiri
- Waris, servant at the Baitar Fort
- Jagat Ram
- The Munshi, in charge of the Baitar Fort
- Uma Kapoor, daughter of Savita and Pran
- Professor Nowrojee, who runs the university literary club attended by Kabir and Lata.
- Sunil Patwardhan, mathematician at Brahmpur University
- Parvati, Mrs Rupa Mehra's stepmother
- Vikram Seth at contemporarywriters.com
- Randomhouse interview with Vikram Seth
- Read the Ten Longest Novels Ever Written Amazon.com
- Size Does Matter. The Longest Novels. AbeBooks
- Armitstead, Claire (13 September 2013). "Vikram Seth finds a suitable publisher". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
- Vikram Seth discusses A Suitable Boy on the BBC World Book Club
- Author interview with Vikram Seth at HarperCollins
- Analysis of the novel at Let's Talk about Bollywood
- A book review
- "Total immersion in 1950s India: Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy", 2010 review by Jo Walton
- Richard B. Woodward (May 2, 1993). "Vikram Seth's Big Book". The New York Times Magazine.
- Agarwalla, Shyam S. (1995). Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy : Search for an Indian Identity. Prestige. ISBN 81-85218-97-8.