I think I need a new category of "books read (or reading)", though in this case it is more a matter of "books attempted to read". There was a time (much like there was a time when I only read two or maybe three books at any one given moment) where I would pick at least one "really big read" for the year. Something really epic like The Count of Monte Cristo or Middlemarch or Anna Karenina or The Quincunx. And I would plan and read and execute and stick with it until the end. It was something I enjoyed and felt a sense of real accomplishment since it was often not just a massive chunkster but a classic of some sort, too.
What has happened to those days? It's never a bad thing when reading habits change and evolve, but this is a habit I am sad I have gotten away from. Sometimes when I think of picking up something a little epic I will set the book back down and rethink it. No, I should wait for a "better moment". You know, that moment when my reading pile is pretty clear and I have extra time to put all my attention towards something long. Sadly, however, I am not sure those moments will be forthcoming anytime soon, which means I keep passing up good, long reads. I rarely mind (except with the smallest tinges of guilt) picking up a new book to read, so why ignore a big book just because I think the timing is not right. Particularly if a story is something that really appeals to me.
I think the moment has arrived for me to read in earnest Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy. I have attempted it twice before and never gotten past the 200-ish page mark. But I have had a very keen interest at the moment in Indian Literature (I've read and must soon write about books by Arkhil Sharma and Jhumpa Lahiri--both of which I thought really excellent). Between my current reading and being addicted to the first season of Indian Summers (season two is airing now and I hope to be able to stream the episodes after the fact when I am caught up with season one), I want to lose myself in a good story set in India, so perhaps this third time out will be a charm.
A Suitable Boy is very "readable". It is not hard reading and the story is quite engaging, but the book is indeed quite hefty with close to 1,500 pages. I've already just jumped right in and the story is all coming back to me. It begins with a marriage. The story focuses on four families which are intermingled through marriage. The main family is the Mehras. Mrs. Mehra is a widow with four grown children. The marriage at the start is between her eldest daughter Savita and a young man, Pran Kapoor, which is an arranged marriage. There are two sons, one already married and the other in college. And then there is the youngest daughter, Lata. This is going to be her story mostly. Her mother is looking for a suitable boy for her to marry! I expect it will not be as easy for all parties involved, which is going to make for a rich read set against a very changing Indian society ca. 1950, just a few years after Independence.
I am planning (and hoping to be consistent in my execution) to keep my reading going this time. I might try a weekly update to keep the momentum up and keep it all straight. Expect to hear about the book a lot in the coming weeks (and months perhaps, but I do hope it does not continue into--"coming years"). Now that I have set it down in print, I have to stick with it, right?