Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wedding Wows

This is from the latest TimeOut Mumbai.

LOVE MARRIAGE V.V. Ganeshananthan

Some authors find their subjects in the ways in which marriages are contracted in the subcontinent. Yet others speak of political events and their impact on personal lives. In her debut novel, V.V. Ganeshananthan attempts a cocktail of both, with results that are often pleasing and sometimes disorienting.

The novel is narrated by Yalini, unmarried daughter of Sri Lankan immigrants in suburban America. Yalini and her parents move to Toronto to meet an ailing uncle and his daughter, who is soon to enter into an arranged marriage. However, this isn’t the story of Yalini alone; she tells us of the lives, loves and losses of her parents, maternal and paternal uncles and aunts, grandparents and cousins, much of which is set in Sri Lanka, but also in America, Germany, Australia, France and Canada. The point is driven home towards the end: “Reverse a family tree and branches of blood are whittled down to one person. I am composed of all the men and women who came before me. I am the result of many marriages”.

Yalini, we’re told more than once, was born in July 1983 – known to Sri Lankans as “Black July”, when systematic violence broke out against the Tamil community. Stray incidents of violence, mainly political, mark the narrative, each one an axe hacking at the family tree, but unable to destroy it.

There’s an attractive cadence to Ganeshananthan’s prose, undercut by her overdone tic of capitalizing Important Words -- among them Love and Heart. The fluency of the narrative is also marred by the fragmentary, episodic manner in which the stories are related and the sheer number of lives touched upon. Nevertheless, this investigation of roots is held together by an appealing sensibility that, on many occasions, makes up for its weaknesses.

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