This is an epic family saga set in post-partition India. It is at once an intimate family drama about Lata, and her family's search for 'a suitable boy' for her to marry; it is also a historical snapshot of a nation in the process of redefining itself, and an insightful glimpse into a world where religion is deeply interwoven in daily life.
The story starts with a wedding, and we see Lata against the backdrop of her extended family, and witness her mixed feelings about the arranged marriage of her much-admired elder sister Savita. The completion of Savita's marriage to Pran leaves their mother Rupa Mehra free to consider the marriage prospects of her youngest daughter, Lata. Rupa sets off on her annual rail pilgrimage around India, visiting family and friends, and searching for a suitable boy.
This is a very long and involved read, but persevere with it as it is immensely rewarding. There is a rich cast of characters, many of whom are members of Lata's extended family, and some writing of extraordinary beauty and lyricism. The author moves deftly between sparkling wit and lightness, and scenes of fear, darkness, terror and death.
Best part of story, including ending:
This story gives a superb insight into a very specific cultural setting in 1950s India.
Best scene in story:
The scene where Lata discovers that Amit has written her name into the poem that he wrote for her, and that it is a declaration of his love for her. It is so beautiful and unexpected, and the reader finds out at exactly the same time that Lata does. It is completely in character for each of them, and at the same time it reveals so much about the feelings of each character towards the other.
Opinion about the main character:
I find her at times indecisive or too passive, but I know this is because she is from a different era and a completely different culture. She has tremendous strength and stamina, and she is devoted to her family, all of which I admire.
Lata Mehra's mother, Rupa, is determined to marry off her second daughter. The book opens at Savita and Pran Kapoor's wedding, where Lata decides that she does not want an arranged marriage like her sister. As the year passes three suitors come into Lata's life. While Lata chooses among a handsome Muslim classmate, a writer friend, or the self-made business man her mother wants for her, family drama and Indian history unfold around her. Life changes for Maan, Pran's brother, when he falls for an unsuitable girl. Savita and Pran begin domestic life together and start their family. Lata's brothers clash in Calcutta. The book is a story of everyday life during 1951-52 in India.
This report prepared by Katie Klein