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John Whyte

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Marriage Material
Marriage Material
Price: £6.17

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Superb. Read this book. After years of not reading, having been jaded by novels, this has made me read again., 11 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Marriage Material (Kindle Edition)
(I've never done a book review before. Done lots of holiday reviews on Trip Adviser - so I'm not sure if this is the same and how you do it. I've deliberately not read any other reviews on "Marriage Material". What I'm about to say may not even count as a review. It's more a recall of my reading experience.)

I heard Sathnam on Radio 4's "Open Book". Whilst the interviewer, Mariella Frostrop, who has dodgy credentials (witness her recent tacky C4 programme "Sex Box"), the author Sathnam Sanghera came over as a class act. I liked what he said and how he said it. So, I wanted to know more.

Having been an avid reader, until about 10 years ago, I finally gave up reading novels. Changes in my life maybe. I had previously got into contemporary American writers but suddenly I couldn't read anything anymore.( I'd been reading everything from John Irving, to Daniel Woodrell and most stuff in between - including Bret Easton Ellis and Dennis Cooper too!) I guess I'd got to the stage that reading them lying on the beach, a few too many vinos down my throat, I'd read the words but nothing registered. So, in the intervening ten years I've only read a few biographies. Well two - about Brigitte Bardot! But that's another story.

So, ashamed of my recent behaviour, Sathnam Sanghera on Radio 4 seemed like someone worthy to try to rehabilitate me. And, God, was I pleased I tried. And so right too. He is fantastic. Read, read, read!

At the same time on Radio 4, I also heard in passing about his earlier biography "The Boy with the Topknot" as well as his current novel "Marriage Material". So I ordered both. Amazon delivered the latter novel (MM) first. Immediately I was captured. I read it in 24 hours - which is a record for me. I don't have all the fancy words and phrases that the posh book reviewers have. But it is just superbly written. He immediately drew you into this world of being Sikh in the UK ,young and old, (Midlands Wolverhampton)and what happened through three generations from the 60s until now; all that was going on then and how imperceptively we ended up where we are now. It's not just between the whites (goras) and the "Pakis". It's also about how society (accepting that there is such a thing) and the class structure generally has changed in a period of de-industrialisation in the Midlands and yuppi-fication in the south and how it spread. But before you yawn, it's not some Guardian reader's smug tome. It's vibrant and witty; superbly crafted and absolutely not over-written in some "clever-clogs / look at me and how clever I am" way. It's about all the changes that happened for people, particularly Asian Sikhs reconciling their past and their present and what that means. You don't have to be a Brummie Asian to read this and make sense of this. You can live in Weybridge or the Outer Hebrides and relate to this and love it; and get something.

I was just totally fascinated, enthralled and moved by the descriptions of the struggle; the daily family toil; the loyalty; the sense of duty and what happened through these changing times; what some could accept and others could not; of the duty to parents, culture versus religion versus the need to move on. And in the end that love (not duty) mattered. It also made me really think about me as a "gora" and how some of them behaved - both good and bad. (Look it up for the meaning.) Sure, there are some great plot twists that leave you wanting to turn the pages. It's a novel after all. There has to be. But in the end, you feel.... well - that's up to you. But I know how I felt. I defy you not to feel something.

Towards the very, very end,I suppose,(being a novel and with my previous American novel exposure)I thought it was in danger of going a bit "John Irving". But so what!Like all good novels, it has to have a sort of "pulling together". (But I don't think there's a real end - there's a follow-up in there somewhere, Santhnam!)

Read this book. Sathnam inspired me to read again - and that's saying something. And get his "Boy with A Topknot" at the same time. I'm not sure which order to read them. But,probably like me, read the "Marriage Material" novel first. Then you'll recognise stuff when you read the earlier memoir. (Search for the cross-overs: I love the Esso "crystal glasses!)

P.S Just so everyone knows, I sent an email to Sathnam and got a lovely reply. Sathnam: I know you're a journalist and writer. I'm not. But your novel is just great. You got me reading again and made me think further about my own circumstances. Thanks for that. Just one day later I got your "Boy with the Topknot" - your earlier biography. Again I read it in 24 hours. That one made me cry. You can guess why. Just a fantastic read. J,

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