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A suitable re-read: What I learned from Vikram Seth’s great novel, second time round

Twenty-two years after A Suitable Boy came out, this masterly novel feels as relevant as ever to modern India

By Mahesh Rao  
Lata (Tanya Maniktala) meets a Muslim student Kabir (Danesh Razvi) in a library in scene from the BBC adaptation of A Suitable Boy Credit: BBC/Lookout Point

Lata (Tanya Maniktala) meets a Muslim student Kabir (Danesh Razvi) in a library in a scene from the BBC adaptation of A Suitable Boy. Credit: BBC/Lookout Point

It was a moment of shock that firmed up my wavering desire to re-read a novel of almost 1,400 pages. The BBC television adaptation of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy meant that the book was back in the culture pages. I had a few hazy memories of reading it two years after its publication in 1993. The story of Mrs Rupa Mehra’s quest for a husband for her daughter Lata in the fictional north Indian town of Brahmpur forms the main thread of a great web of interwoven narratives. Set in the 1950s, the age of India’s post-independence promise,…

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