The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama
Pages - 274
Publisher - Abacus
Challenges - 100+, New Authors and A to Z Author.
One of my friends, Fiona, knew I might be struggling to find a Z author and she kindly lent me this delightful book. Knowing the type of books she likes to read, I should have guessed beforehand that I would love it.
If you are a fan of Precious Ramotswe in The No1 Ladies Detective Agency, then you will absolutely adore this book. It has the delightfulness and the simplicity of the Alexander McCall Smith books, yet instead of being set in Africa, we settle for a lovely story in the beautiful settings of India.
Mr Ali is recently retired and already getting under his wife's feet, so he decides he needs a pastime to keep him busy and sets up a marriage bureau to help families find suitable matches for their children to marry.
Right from the beginning the marriage bureau is successful and soon Mr Ali is desperate for an assistant. Mrs Ali finds Aruna on the street and soon she is efficiently helping Mr Ali to run his business.
Aruna herself, is unable to have an arranged marriage, as her father is financially ruined after severe illness and unable to pay a dowry for a wedding. Aruna has accepted that she will probably never marry, until a very rich, successful doctor enters the bureau with his family, in order to find him a bride. Certain situations bring Aruna and the doctor, Ramanujam, together and he eventually asks Aruna to marry him for love. Their families are very much against the union as a marriage for love is seen as a bad omen. Eventually with the help of Mr and Mrs Ali, the families consent to the marriage.
I found this book fascinating to read, the intricate details of how Asian marriages are arranged, the ceremonies that last for days, even down to the food served. I have a confession to make, I always love a book that includes lots of details about food, I just can't help myself. The characters are charming yet a little despondent, as they struggle with past traditions in a rapidly changing world. Mr Ali is a lovely gentle man, intent on seeing his customers happily married, Mrs Ali quietly rules her husband, without him even realising and Aruna is a traditional girl, who adores her family and will do anything to help them.
Within the book, you get a clear perspective of how the caste system works, which for me, was interesting as the last time I read about the caste system was for my Sociology O level, many years ago.
The books looks at serious issues too that I would believe would be common place in India, such as the lack of a National Health Service, which would leave families suffering from ill health in financial ruin. It also looks as how badly wives can be treated if something goes wrong within the marriage. However the books takes such serious issues and looks at them in a light hearted manner, each issue being solved in a fairytale fashion, which perhaps is a little too simple in it's problem solving, but beautifully written.
There was nothing I could say that I didn't like about the book, it was a lovely light hearted read, which really lifted my spirits.
This book was published in December 2008 and was Farahad's first book to be published. Farahad Zama has a sequel to this book called The Many Conditions of Love coming out in July 2009. I will definitely be adding this to my reading list, as I would love to know how Aruna's marriage turns out.
Has anyone else read this book? I would love to know what you thought of it.