I just posted the following review of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy on LibraryThing where it seems all other 50 reviewers agreed it was an absolute masterpiece. Me? I thought it was unsuitably long, but suitably good. Here’s the review:
I’ll start with the end (no spoilers, promise!): I enjoyed the book once I finished it. The reading of it was another matter altogether. First, the obvious problem of size and weight (2.5 lbs!), which made for physical discomfort. As happens all too often when I decide to dig into hefty books, I felt like so much of it could have been edited out without losing much of the flavour, plot and indeed, with less dull matter to tread through, probably adding much enjoyment for the reader.
On the whole I felt that Seth was writing for his own pleasure. Not a bad thing in itself, but it seemed like he became so enamoured with his research that he felt compelled to put every little bit of it verbatim into the manuscript with no regard for the reader. Did we really need to read about cricket in so much tedious detail? Or have the finer points of Indian constitution circa 1951 spelled out in quite so many words? Or be privy to the inner workings of the sister of the cousin of the wife of an anonymous rickshaw driver (I exaggerate, but only slightly)? The answer according to this reader is a resounding NO.
Other than that, it was a good story which gave me a good sense of life in mid-century India, with all it could possibly encompass and then some. The main characters and story were a joy to discover and spend some time with, which is why I gave it three stars (generous, considering how annoyed at Seth I was for refusing to cut down on word count).