evaluation: 'Brick Lane' author Monica Ali's new 'Love Marriage'

On the Shelf

Love Marriage

By Monica Ali
Scribner: 432 pages, $28

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actually one of many issues that distinguished Monica Ali’s 2003 debut novel, “Brick Lane,” was its insistence on London as absolutely house to its Bangladeshi-born characters. Even the extra moderen immigrants, like Nazneen, are decidedly settled in, not apologizing for current, even when their existence acknowledged as into question. That’s partly what made “Brick Lane” a bestseller after which a film — and Ali a Booker Prize finalist and a Granta “best youthful novelist.”

After a quantity of extra books that ranged far afield (collectively with “Alentejo Blue,” quick tales set in Portugal; “inside the Kitchen,” a lodge-workers homicide thriller; and the Princess Diana alternate historic previous “Untold Story”), Ali took a ten-12 months break from publishing. This 12 months, she obtained here again with “Love Marriage,” a up to this point comic novel about an engaged interracial couple on a rocky road to their nuptials.

It’s an overstuffed couch of a e-book, with too many subplots and too many phrases. (Ali informed British Vogue an early draft contained 2.4 million of them; a lot reward to her editors for reducing all of it of the methodology down to a mere 500 pages.) however then, who amongst us can resist an overstuffed couch?

Yasmin Ghorami and Joe Sangster, each docs, are in love. Joe’s mom, Harriet, invites them collectively with Yasmin’s dad and mom, Anisah and Shaokat, to her house for dinner. Harriet, a feminist author and artist well-known for displaying in a surprisingly open-legged photograph, contrasts in lots of methods with the Ghoramis, who insist on toting service luggage full of Bangladeshi meals to the upscale night.

shock, shock: It’s Yasmin and Joe who wind up feeling omitted, as Harriet and Anisha quickly bond and start plotting each the bridal ceremony festivities and further get-togethers. all of a sudden it is the bride-to-be who has to regulate her expectations: “Yasmin smiled. ‘So Harriet’s turning you proper into a feminist, is she?’ ‘Oh, no,’ said Ma, beaming. ‘Already i am feminist.’”

As in her debut, Ali has nice shattering tradition-conflict clichés (this time inside the rom-com subcategory). Early on, we be taught that Anisah and Shaokat had a “love marriage,” unusual for his or her time and place. One assumes their assist of their daughter’s upcoming nuptials stems from their very personal modest rebellion.

One ought to imagine nothing, not with Ali. In “Brick Lane” she tore aside the notion of Muslim wives as timid and chaste. In “Love Marriage” she’s out to destroy the idea of any variety of woman as such. (No shock her first draft was so prolonged.) Ali manages this by way of orchestrated chaos (affairs, intercourse dependancy, a youngster on the methodology by which for Yasmin’s feckless brother) however additionally by fastidiously dismantling expectations. besides for Harriet and Anisah’s odd-couple camaraderie, there are intimations that Joe is simply not as great as he seems. finally even the e-book’s title comes into question. Does “love marriage” exist?

Ali’s makes an try to answer that question are excruciatingly humorous, at occasions virtually brutally so. The schoolgirl Yasmin, nonetheless in awe of her dad and mom’ real love, writes a quick story for sophistication about it. When she gives it to her father to be taught, we get a glimpse of his personal fears:

“you may presumably have written issues that you merely’ve obtained not any idea. that you merely can’t know.”
“It’s inventive writing, Baba. Mr. Curtis actually favored it. you may supply you the various to be taught what he’s written on the tip.”
“you may presumably have not any idea what I said to your mom inside the library in Calcutta. you have been not there. you have been not born. you may presumably have not any idea what she said to me. And but you may presumably have written as inside the event you have been on the subsequent desk. inform me — how are you fully different from a liar? How is that this inventive writing fully different from lies?”

Observations like that carry what might in a lesser author’s fingers be a humdrum home story to a particular stage. Ali, collectively with her seemingly previous school construction and contemplate characters, has a terribly trendy and human deal with strategies to reside and why. Shaokat’s secrets and techniques are lies of one other magnitude from his youthful daughter’s fiction; one other character should be taught to cease dwelling a lie; nonetheless one other ought to acknowledge trauma earlier than being in a place to inform the actuality. These reckonings go away an exact mess of their wake. nonetheless the mess ought to be made earlier than anyone can actually reside greater, extra truthfully.

Like her literary forebear and affect Jane Austen, Ali has a terrific deal to say about moral life. Which, by the methodology by which, is simply not the identical factor as “morality.” although they’re categorized as novelists of manners, neither Austen nor Ali traffics in something mannerly; barely, they use the mores of an period to level out how snarled we get in flimsy constructions that it turns into inconceivable to distinguish from lies. which means, if truth be informed, that the denouement of “Love Marriage” includes an whole lot of detangling.

How do you detangle a couch? That’s not simply an overstuffed metaphor; it’s a dilemma. Ali’s final chapter, “hazard,” makes elegant work of that widespread draw again of the maximal novel — the truncated ending. rather than merely updating us character by character, the author has Yasmin transfer by way of a morning of developing espresso and contemplating what comes subsequent. even when it’s a bit transparently cinematic, it’s additionally much less clumsy than the traditional “Epilogue.”

do you ought to decide to be taught “Love Marriage” — and it is best to! — get fortunately misplaced in its pages however take observe of Ali’s aim inside the event you may supply you the various to. She proves that a Dickensian-size e-book nonetheless works with trendy characters at its center. As Dickens wrote about his London, so Ali writes about hers — about people who make their homes inside its confines however additionally amongst its wild prospects. regardless of our uniquely trendy troubles, we nonetheless have the identical human failings — better than passable to overstuff a novel.

Patrick is a contract critic who tweets @TheBookMaven.


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