I utterly revelled in this book and would recommend it to everyone. However, I would also warn them that it's essentially a nine-month snapshot (although at 1474 pages, it seems a lot longer) of the lives of a group of semi-connected people. Not everything is resolved, and because the snapshots are just that, some of the motivations displayed by the characters are never revealed. I'm inclined to think this was purposefully done, however.
For once I agree with a reviewer: this book is 'a long, sweet, sleepless pilgramage to life.'
In a book this long, I suppose some recapping was inevitable. It was present enough that I'm mentioning it, but another person might not have noticed. I didn't need said recaps, but I read it in two weeks - it might have been different if I took longer than that.
I'm still utterly puzzled by why Lata choose Haresh in the end. If I couldn't have Kabir, I most certainly would have chosen Amit. His family is hilarious and he's a poet. Haresh, on the other hand, wears dreadful shoes. I simply cannot understand marrying a man with dreadful shoes. The funny thing is, I was rooting for him when he was first introduced. However, Lata's reaction to him is far from complimentary. Essentially, she allowed her mother to arrange her marriage, and she took the lead from her sister, who would have fallen in love with 'any good man.' It's fucking weird, is what it is. It must be the cultural divide limiting my view.
After all that, Maan never went back to Saeeda Bai! Crazyness. However, I am deeply hopeful that SOMEONE else has read this book and can tell me if I'm just dreaming the overt Maan/Firoz elements. See here:
"Oh?" said Maan, rolling over on his side towards his friend, and taking him in his arms.
"I thought you were sleepy," said Firoz, smiling to himself in the dark.
"So I am," said Maan. " But so what?"
Firoz began to laugh quietly. "You'll think I've planned all this."
"Well, perhaps you have," said Maan. "But I don't mind," he added with a small sigh as he passed a hand through Firoz's hair.
This following a conversation about the Rajkumar of Mahr, a known 'pederast', with whom Maan has made friends - and of whom Firoz is JEALOUS.
Firoz was thinking about Maan:
My dearest, dearest Maan, you've saved my life all right and I love you dearly
I like to think that, after dumping Saeeda Bai and being rejected by all suitable girls, Maan and Firoz went off to San Francisco and had lots and lots of gay sex. THAT IS WHAT I LIKE TO THINK.
There were several bright spots of humour:
"Yesterday evening?" Varun dragged himself back to the two-legged world. "What happened?"
"Our sister got married."
"Ah. Oh. Yes, yes, I know. Savita," he added, hoping to imply alertness by specificity.
He became lustrious and debauching. He built now a dark room where refractory members of harem were hanged and their bodies were swept away in the river. This left a blot on his personality.
I SHOULD SAY.
"Why not? The sooner you make the move the better. There isn't a single decent human being I know who is an economist. Why can't you change?"
"Because I've already graduated."
What did people do in the village, anyway? he asked himself. They waited; they sat and talked and cooked and ate and drank pots of water. Perhaps, thought Maan, everyone is essentially a Mr Biscuit.
The baby had inexhuastible energy, and a determined grip on life, her surroundings, and any hair within reach.
Pran had learned 'The Lady Baby' by heart, and would declaim it to Uma from time to time. Mrs Rupa Mehra [...] would look up, half delighted and half suspicious, whenever Pran began one of his recitations.
I quite liked this description of the Nawab Sahib's marriage -
He looked back at his own marriage, at the practical and gentle woman whom for many years he had hardly known, and who, late in their marriage and long after the birth of their three children, hand entirely won his heart.
- that is, until the whole theme was repeated with Mahesh Kapoor. Maybe men should learn to appreciate their wives WHILE THEY'VE GOT 'EM, hmm?
"Many years ago you told me that until you were forty you were very concerned about what people thought of you. Then you decided to be concerned about what you thought of other people instead."
The whole book was worth reading for this principle, which I've been trying to act on ever since.
They even saw a peacock dancing. Maan was transported with pleasure.
PEACOCKS DANCE? OMG OMG.
She had dispersed. She was the garden at Prem Nivas [...], she was Veena's love of music, Pran's asthma, Maan's generosity, the survival of some refugees four years ago, the neem leaves that would preserve quilts stored in the great zinc trunks of Prem Nivas, the moulting feather of some pond-heron, a small unrung brass bell, the memory of decency in an undecent time, the temperament of Bhaskar's great-grandchildren.
Doesn't that remind you of the end of Pullman's The Amber Spyglass? I love it very much.
I wonder who Varun ended up with. If Malati = Amit and Kalpurna Gaur = Kabir, who will be his eventual Haresh? Perhaps that poor girl whose father abused her. I probably will wonder about all their fates 'for the rest of my life' - thank you, The Times.
Previously, on Book Glomp 2009:
He Knew He Was Right, Anthony Trollope |The Bostonians, Henry James | ♥ For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway | ♥ For Esme - with Love and Squalor, JD Salinger | The Outsider, Albert Camus | The Princess Diaries: Ten out of Ten, Meg Cabot | The Vicar of Bullhampton, Anthony Trollope | Molesworth, Geoffrey Willans | Villette, Charlotte Bronte | The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James | The Way of All Flesh, Samuel Butler | Cecilia, Fanny Burney | ♥ The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger | The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark | Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut | ♥ Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann | Siddhartha, Herman Hesse | The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga | The Duke and I, Julia Quinn | Brave New World, Aldous Huxley | North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell | Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee | Catch-22, Joseph Heller | ♥ Bright Shiny Morning, James Frey | Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck | The Demon's Lexicon, Sarah Rees Brennan | ♥ The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton | jPod, Douglas Coupland | 'Are these my basoomas I see before me?', Louise Rennison | Faro's Daughter, Georgette Heyer | Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman | The Accidental Sorcerer, K.E. Mills | ♥ Ethan of Athos, Lois McMaster Bujold | V., Thomas Pynchon | The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway | ♥ The Dragon Keeper, Robin Hobb | Orlando, Virginia Woolf | The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath | Snuff, Chuck Palahniuk | Crush, Richard Siken | Trust Me, I'm a Junior Doctor, Max Pemberton | The Dice Man, Luke Rhinehart | ♥ Call Me By Your Name, Andre Aciman | Young Miles, Lois McMaster Bujold | He's Just Not That Into You, Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo | The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand | A Classical Education, Caroline Taggart | The Way We Live Now, Anthony Trollope | Two Cures for Love, Wendy Cope | Unseen Academicals, Terry Prachett | Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand | Diary, Chuck Palahniuk | Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray