Tag Archives: Long books

Vikram Seth’s “A Suitable Boy”

This is one of the longest books in single volume that I have read. It was released with lot of hype in 1993. To some extent it lived up to the expectation but still it was a very long book. I remember having struggled to get it from library for reading. The story of “A Suitable Boy” is about a mother’s search for a suitable bridegroom for her daughter Lata’s marriage. Lata is young and vulnerable and ready to fall in love and not get influenced by her mother’s choices. At the same time, there are pressures of society and culture. But with that central story the book is also a commentary on post Independence India.

Vikram Seth has created a vast network of characters and family trees and through them he is talking about all the issues that were influencing the country at that time. It covers caste issues, land reforms, crumbling feudal system, academic affairs, social relationships in various communities and host of other issues. In a way this book has multiple stories going on simultaneously but the author is bringing them together with a common thread.

Even though the author has handled his story very well, the book is long and takes a lot of time and since the characters are related in complex way, it requires to be read without too much gap. I still have one grudge against the author. He translated a very good hindi song in English and presented only English version in the book. He should have retained the hindi version in English alphabet as well. The song was “Uth Jaag Musafir Bhor Bhai” that is “Get up traveller it is morning”

I have been reading that he is planning to come up with a sequel to the book where Lata will be searching for a “A Suitable Girl” for her grandson. I am looking forward to getting my hands on that as soon as it comes out.

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Does Size Matter For Book Reading

Which books do we like most? The ones which are smaller in size or ones that are very long. What about short stories? I guess there is no straight answer to all these. I have read short stories that are less than a page and I have also read books that were more than thousand pages and I have enjoyed both. Sometimes a writer can put across the point in few lines and sometimes the same point can be played out in hundreds of pages.

What matters in case of books is the content and way of writing. It is always possible to squeeze the whole concept of a book into few lines but a good book is not only telling you a summary of a story. It shows you a picture of era. The narrative is such that you can create cities, people, events in your imagination and to create that imagination, it requires for author to provide details and that takes a lot of pages. Sometimes the books also trace a lot of events which are important for the end result. If the reader were to read the end result directly it does not give the same pleasure of reading.

There are also books which come in many sequels and readers lap up all of them even if it runs into many volumes. In such cases, even though a particular book is short, the story is still long and a break in between increases the curiosity of the readers much more.

But I think there is initial inhibition in taking up a book if it is too long and heavy. Also if the reader is not regular or not reading the book in one sitting, they may lose the context and may never finish a long book. There is a sweet spot of 200-400 pages for most of the books and many authors try to not beat that sweet spot. In the end what matters is not the size but how the story has been put forward and how much the reader is able to relate to it.

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