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Dear Thursday: THE MARRIAGE BUREAU FOR RICH PEOPLE by Farahad Zama [Book 36 of 2010]

There’s only one thing I like more than a good book and that’s  a good book set outside of my own culture. Do you, too, love discovering countries that you haven’t been to yet through fiction? Then you’ll definitely want to read my thoughts on THE MARRIAGE BUREAU FOR RICH PEOPLE by Farahad Zama.

Why I Decided To Read It: I met book blogger, Reads4Pleasure through twitter and started reading her wonderful review blog. She made THE MARRIAGE BUREAU FOR RICH PEOPLE  sound so intriguing that I surprised myself by downloading the book on her suggestion alone — the first of many suggestions taken, as it turns out, we have really similar reading tastes.

What Makes It Different: This is basically the novel version of Love Actually with Indians and arranged marriages — that is to say fantastically unique and familiar at the same time. Westerners will have no problem finding their way “in.”

What I Loved: I didn’t quite realize how interested I was in the process of arranged marriages until I started reading this book. I loved all the marriage anecdotes peppered throughout and all the people we meet when they come in to join the agency. If this book doesn’t get a British movie deal or at the very least a BBC mini-series within next three years, then I’m going to send a very nasty letter to both the British Film Council and the BBC. One last thing, Zama sets up one of the best ironic situations I’ve found in a novel this year: the main character founds a successful marriage bureau and starts arranges several marriages, save that of his son, who is unmarriageable for reasons I’ll let you discover. Brilliant!

What I Didn’t Like: It bit of a creaky start. Things don’t really get to cracking until the main character arranges his first marriage. Also, there are several moments of too-neat coincidences, and most of the upper-class people are portrayed as perfectly nice and completely reasonable folk who all get along with their poor-but-not-at-all-resentful servants and employees. I wouldn’t have minded a bit more conflict, seeing as how India is divided so thickly by class. Lastly, dark-skinned Indians = completely undesirable in this novel, with several characters rejecting matches for being too dark. I hated that such ideas were presented as a fact of life and without any introspection on the part of the novel.

Writing Lessons Learned:

A bunch of little stories can make for one awesome big story. From what I can tell, the author who has a day job as a mechanical engineer has little to no writing training — which means he must just have a great innate sense of structure, because his plot was on point. Every story no matter how little had a beginning, middle and end. And from what I could tell, everything was wrapped up. I’m still trying o figure out how he kept it straight. But I’m grateful for the reminder that a novel is a collection of scenes, all of which should have a basic beginning, middle, and end.

Present a controversial idea in an appealing way. As someone who would have never agreed to an arranged marriage, I loved how this book opened my mind on the subject. By the end, I could not only see the appeal of arranged marriage, but also the practicality of it. I still wouldn’t trust my own family to set me up in an arranged marriage, but in many ways it seemed like an awesome way to get out of dating a bunch of dudes.

Opposite=Same. I love when two people are presented as polar opposites, but then continuously bump heads because they are so much a like. The father and son in this novel are both obstinate, passionate about their work and they both want to help people in unusual ways. Yet they cannot go five minutes without arguing. These are such great character details and gives the book some much-needed conflict.

To Whom Would I Recommend This Book: Singletons, Lovers of Masterpiece Theater, Those Who Download BBC Series Illegally, Those Who Look Forward To Watching Love Actually Yet Again Everytime The Holidays Roll Around

Click on the cover to buy the book!