14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A brilliant first novel,
This review is from: Marriage Material (Hardcover)
I was lucky enough to receive a preview copy of Sathnam Sanghera's debut novel, Marriage Material, finished it in two days and immediately started it over again.
It's a wonderful story: comic and poignant, layered and finely wrought, revealing Sanghera to be as at home in invented lands as in first person journalism and reportage.
In Marriage Material, Sanghera revisits many of the big themes of his compelling family memoir, The Boy with the Topknot: immigration, mixed-race relationships, the complex ties and tensions within families and the warmly drawn eccentricities of the British Sikh community. The corner shop setting is captured in all its tedium and minutiae, a cleverly chosen meeting place at once recognizably English and Indian that grounds the book in a humble realism.
I was intrigued by Sanghera's decision to rework the plot of Arnold Bennett's The Old Wives' Tale, which becomes a kind of sister book to a story of sisterhood.
The borrowed narrative forms another strand in the novel's fascination with interlinking histories, the late Victorian institutions and characters of Bennett's masterpiece audaciously time-travelled to the immigrant's Wolverhampton of the mid-20th century and later.
Sanghera clearly has huge affection for all his characters, but, as with his mother in The Boy with the Topknot, he reserves his deepest pathos for women. The tenderness with which he draws the character of aunt Surinder, whose mixed-race elopement provides the catalyst for much of the action later on, remained with me long after I finished the book.