A Suitable Boy, I'm going to try to avoid using terms like "epic" and "tour-de-force," but it won't be easy. This is a 1300-odd page novel with dozens of characters and a scope that is both grand and intimate, and yet it's so compulsively readable that I was interested in every character and every story line.
The book is set in India in 1951. The story loosely revolves around the main character, Lata, whose mother is determined to find a "suitable boy" for her to marry. Although the book begins and ends with weddings, and the title notwithstanding, this story line is only one of many. In addition to marriages, births, and deaths, subplots deal with land reform, caste discrimination, shoe manufacture, Hindu-Muslim relations, post-partition politics, university faculty politics, and more. Jawaharlal Nehru himself makes a few appearances.
Although even the political story lines were interesting, the great pleasure for me was the depictions of Indian family life, with which I am familiar in a secondhand sort of way as my inlaws are Pakistani (raised in India and migrated to Pakistan at the time of partition). They have brought many elements of that culture with them here to the US, and I felt real affection for many of the characters, both Hindu and Muslim, for that reason--I almost "knew" them already. Not that such a body of background knowledge is necessary to thoroughly enjoy A Suitable Boy. Seth's storytelling is at once so fluent and so sympathetic that I always wanted to read more. By the end, I had spent so much time with these characters in their world that I knew I would miss them.
The Classics Club