All’s not well in the Ghorami family, although not even its own members are fully aware of that. Yasmin, daughter of Bengali immigrants is a trainee doctor to the immense pride of her self-made GP father. Her mother, Anisah, is the perfect Indian housewife, endlessly cooking fragrant dish upon fragrant dish. Arif, Yasmin’s younger brother, is the only one showing the cracks as he struggles to find out what to do with his life. When Yasmin starts planning her upcoming marriage to fellow junior doctor Joe, darker secrets emerge. Love Marriage by Monica Ali is her first book in 15 years. Will this one be a match for her 2003 mega best-seller Brick Lane?
Joe’s formidable, liberal/feminist/author mother Harriet takes centre stage in this story, orchestrating not only her son’s life but to an increasing extent her daughter-in-law-to-be and even Yasmin’s mother. The potential for conflict is rife and that’s even before skeletons start falling out of the closets. So what about Joe and Yasmin’s love? Can it withstand it all? And will they or won’t they?
It’s not all domestic dramas this book, though, wider societal issues such as racism (covert in the case the overbearing but seemingly well-meaning Harriet, overt racism in the case of the health care system), the clash of cultural expectations, addiction, and, perhaps less successfully, the pressure on junior doctors in the NHS, are all themes Ali wants to bring to the fore.
She is an excellent storyteller, and this book makes for easy, addictive reading. I think most 500 pages books could do with a trim, and Love Marriage is no exception. But Ali kept me going, thanks to believable characters and effortless dialogue.
Love Marriage probably won’t go down in the annals of unforgettable British fiction but I’m sure it will find its way into many a holiday suitcase this summer. As well-written, page-turning entertainment, it definitely qualifies.
Love Marriage by Monica Ali is published by Virago, 512 pages.