by Deborah Rogers –
Monica Ali gave us lots to talk about with her novel Love Marriage. Set in contemporary, multi-cultural Britian, the story introduces us to Yasmin, a junior doctor, newly engaged and struggling to reconcile the worlds of her family and her fiancée. This compelling novel examines aspects of modern identity such as race, class, gender, faith and sexuality as well as generational and cultural tensions. If that makes it sound like an issues book, it didn’t read like one.
For some of our readers, the naivety of the main character was off-putting. Yasmin has a lot to learn about both herself, and the adult world. She’s been brought up in a protective immigrant family where her father ruled the home and set high expectations for his children. While Yasmin is studying hard to pass her final medical exams, her brother is unemployed and without a plan, something their father finds infuriating. The tension in her family home comes to a head and causes Yasmin’s mother, Anishah, to begin her own journey of self-discovery.
In parallel, Yasmin’s fiancé Joe has his own family issues. He’s from a very different background, but family secrets are woven through both their lives. Ali does a great job of highlighting how different Yasim and Joe’s lives are, even though they live in the same city and hold the same jobs. The culture clash at the heart of the book sustains the storyline as Yasmin contends with problems at work, in her family and with Joe.
Despite the increasing chaos of Yasmin’s world, Love Marriage is a very humourous book. Many of our readers commented on the richness of Ali’s writing: her descriptions are full of clever and delightful imagery and the attention to small details about the character’s clothing, for example, or mannerisms, really brought them to life. We talked about the way that Ali allowed Anishah to become a fully-formed character as she stepped out of the confines of her family life and mixed with Joe’s mother and her friends. There were a wide range of views about the choices she made, which made for great discussion.
Its short chapters make Love Marriage very readable, but some felt that there was too much going on. With fewer storylines and characters we might have been able to enjoy the development of Yasim and her family even more.
Our next meeting takes place on Tuesday, September 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the Nell Horth Room at the Sidney/North Saanich Library. We’ll be discussing Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard. There’s no Book Club set of this title, but there are many copies in the library’s general circulation. To stay up to date with meeting information please sign up to our mailing list: www.seasidemagazine.ca/book-club.