When you read a book, one of two things can happen to you. Either you see the story for the mirror that it is for an unassailable yet distant past. The story’s vivid and touching atmosphere captures your complete attention but it doesn’t dissolve the reality you’re in.
Or you do what so many other writers tell you to. You inhabit a story fully and consider the cover of a book as possessing a roof and four walls. So all the twists and turns that define the story – the human relationships and the surroundings that propel it forward – drag you into it. And you willingly do so.
Reading A Suitable Boy, I felt like an enabler of the profound and scenic rhythm of its story. The voyage is only half complete if you read this book without inhabiting it. The 1,400 or so pages of the book epitomize soulful reading.
It’s so intricately interwoven that it unravels one thread at a time.
Each thread contains within it a sea of emotions that are transparently and unerringly defined by the moral, intellectual, poetic, and political relevance of a nation and of its time. The sharp and dramatic coloring of his characters shines even in their absence.
You’d think it’s impossible to forget that this is one of the longest books to read in a single volume. That straining your wrist and turning the pages will soon seem tiresome. That, in the presence of so many strong and complex characters, you’d get lost and a far cry away from its historical lineage.
The truth is, it’s this very impossibility that makes the story so detailed and seductive. That encourages you to replay the restlessness of Mrs. Rupa Mehra, the devotion of Maan, the buoyancy of Lata, the mature vulnerabilities of Saeeda Bai. They are hard to replace, even in the world of literature.
The nostalgia, tenderness, and reprieve they ignite owe its allegiance to imaginative storytelling. But also to how the story is rooted in the post-independence fabric of the nation.