Marriage Material Hardcover – 26 Sep 2013
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"Enormously enjoyable…Marriage Material isn’t simply an ingenious exercise in updating…Sanghera’s central subject, as in his much-praised memoir, The Boy with the Topknot, is prejudice…One of the novel’s achievements is to keep you in mind of all this while maintaining a tone of shrewdly humorous tolerance. Sanghera’s forte is wry comedy tinged with pathos…There is a concluding twist that has all the poisonous horror of finding a cobra coiled around boxes of confectionary in a corner shop…[A] warm, keenly observant and immensely appealing novel." (Peter Kemp Sunday Times)
"Having grown up in a corner shop in the West Midlands, I hoped that Sathnam Sanghera's Marriage Material would resonate. I was expecting acerbic wit, unsentimental tenderness and a Black Country setting – and it lived up to my stupid expectations. I really wanted to like it and I loved it - which never seems to happen. I usually damn things with high hopes. It was a lot of things I expected - funny and tender and scathing - but it's insanely gripping as well. So much of the newsagent detailing was completely spot on – there was plenty of my Dad in the character of Tanvir, plenty of all of my family in there really. A great achievement." (Catherine O'Flynn, author of What Was Lost)
"A satirical masterpiece … A razor-sharp disquisition on the trials of being an Asian newsagent…Handled with a poignancy that makes it hurt to read. But those tears are soon replaced by ones of laughter … As past and present collide in a violent, twisty finale, it is clear that the caste system of the old country is alive and dangerous. Sanghera is such an engaging and versatile writer that the pages fly by in a flurry of pathos, politics and paratha with extra butter. Not many readers will recognise this satirical mini-masterpiece as a reworking of the 1908 Arnold Bennett novel The Old Wives’ Tale, but everyone will feel richer for its uncompromising take on race relations in the Black Country." (Sunday Telegraph)
"A stunning novel ... touching and funny and feels so fresh ... it just leaps off the page. I adored it." (Deborah Moggach)
"His poignant memoir of growing up in 1980s Wolverhampton won Sathnam Sanghera an army of admirers as well as a clutch of nominations and awards. Five years on, he has turned his literary talents in the direction of fiction, with this funny and insightful first novel the result … A thoughtful examination of the complexities of modern Britain … An engrossing, entertaining and rewarding read." (Daily Mail)
"Smart, funny and melancholy, Sanghera’s debut novel goes straight to the heart of family life." (Marie Claire)
"A novel that ingeniously ‘shoplifts’ (his word) characters and elements of plot from Arnold Bennett’s The Old Wives’ Tale…This dangerous material is handled with a darkly comic lightness of touch, and an impassively detached ironic tone that may owe something to Bennett ― like Bennett, Sanghera makes good use of local newspaper cuttings, letters to the editor, and contemporary fashion magazine material, which gives an unobtrusively authentic period flavour to each passing phase. This book is so well researched you hardly notice the work that’s gone into it…The mix of comedy, satire, realism and optimism is nicely judged." (Margaret Drabble Spectator)
"Subtle and often very funny prose … What lifts this novel far above cliché is Sanghera’s deft sense of irony and self-awareness regarding his subject matter … The family’s unfolding history is beautifully counterpointed by real-life events in the local political landscape … Sanghera’s tender and funny book is a cracking and pacy read." (Meera Syal Observer)
"Sathnam Sanghera’s entertaining story is a “remix” of Arnold Bennett’s classic novel The Old Wives’ Tale … Playful wit infuses the novel … But behind the humour and the plot twists, is an important novel that explores an often overlooked part of this country's history … That the story of the Victorian mercantile class told in Bennett’s novel is so easily transposed onto the community Sanghera grew up in nearly a century later is absolutely fascinating, and by recognizing and exploiting this with excellent effect, he examines the nationwide story of British immigration through the prism of the Punjabi Sikh experience." (Independent)
"A funny and touching read ... Brilliant … A superbly updated version of Arnold Bennett’s The Old Wives’ Tale. At its heart, this is a simple story of family … yet, all this is handled throughout with the lightest of touches, so that on reaching the end, you want to begin again to pick up the subtle nuances of this book" (Psychologies)
An epic tale of family, love, and politics spanning the twentieth century, told with humour, tenderness and insight by one of Britain’s most promising young writers. Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize.See all Product description
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Starting with the good - I bought into the day to day minutiae of life in a 'corner shop' and I quite enjoyed the contrast between the two generations of shop workers. On the downside, the title is ridiculous and does the book no favours, no doubt appealing to those in search of something about arranged or forced marriage (neither of which is very relevant). I also found the 'reveal' with the missing Auntie a bit too trite and the absurd show down in the Gents at the local 'Singhfellows' (genius branding) too silly for words.
I would no doubt buy any further books by Sanghera but not at full price.
I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn more about the modus operandi of an increasingly important part of our multi-ethnic society.
The vignettes about local politics in Wolverhampton were wonderful and at times shocking ( not allowed to wear turbans, on a bus?!) and Sathnam's memories of growing up in the 80s were spot on.
I heartily recommend this book.