I was talking to someone about The Luminaries this week and we had ecountered the same problem. A great book, both of us riveted by it, but a reading gap had left us both feeling we needed and owed it to the book and ourselves to start over, even though events so far remained fresh in our minds.
So this month was the big test with A Suitable Boy...
Parts 1 & 2 under my belt, and then a gap. so would I slip back into the flow of the book easily..
Had the characters, so many of them, stayed uppermost in my mind...
Would the sense of place materialise without me having to reread anything.
I really needn't have worried...
Sunday breakfast at Pran's house. Pran the character that, as this early stage, I somehow feel sure is destined to play an interesting and changing part in the book, plays that wonderful April Fool joke on Mrs Rupa Mehra. Lata has eloped with his brother Maan who has phoned from the railway station to tell them...
'Oh my poor daughter, oh my poor daughter,' wept Mrs Rupa Mehra.
The door opened and Lata walked in.
And I can't have been the only one to have been taken in, and instantly I was back in Brahmpur.
Poor Lata, controlled by others, her free-will limited, her wishes unheard and ignored and serious trouble brewing when she meets and falls in love with Kabir. The hatred between the Hindus and the Muslims now abundantly clear, any union unthinkable.
Meanwhile another potential suitor (I'm starting to make a list) appears in the shape of the rather dapper Haresh. I was back to the family tree to check out the connections and I am intrigued by Vikram Seth's cleverness in making those connections.
Haresh takes the gifted Bhaskar (Pran's nephew) to meet Kabir's professor father.
He glimpses Lata boarding the train to Calcutta under the watchful eye of her mother.
It's like one of those diagrams of overlapping circles and Haresh reveals himself to be an astute observer ...
'The young woman seemed to be determinedly fighting back some sadness that went beyond the normal sadness of parting at a railway platform.'
He was already in my good books for refusing to cut out the middle-man in his shoe buying venture, now I like Haresh even more. Vikram Seth seems able to convey a great deal without me realising it is happening. I am shaping likes and dislikes as if these were real people.
Reading a 1993 review of the book by Peter Kemp he suggests that it is written in such a way 'allowing instant, unimpeded acess to its people and events' and that feels exactly right. He also suggests that...
'This human abundance, prodigally scattered across India's vastnesses, is unobtrusively arranged into a fiction of meticulous, quiet artistry. Details that might seem merely applied as flecks of local colour subsequently take on deeper hues.'
Quiet artistry indeed.
I am now very excited about A Suitable Boy, this is proving to be a really enjoyable, engaging reading and I can't wait to know what happens next.
For anyone reading this who may have given up on the book, I'd love to know at what point you stopped reading, because there is no way, at page 242, that I could put this book down now.
Over to all of you...
For the diary ::
Saturday November 30th :: Parts 5 & 6 (and for those who have been waiting for the Kindle version, it's out on November 7th... go on, catch us up, you'll love it)