Love Marriage by Monica Ali is one of my best surprise reads of the year. I can’t remember why I picked it up – maybe because Ali was short-listed for the Booker with her debut Brick Lane. (My readers know how I feel about the Booker Award.) Whatever the reason, I’m so glad I did.
Yasmin and Joe are engaged, and while impending marriages can often test familial relationships, this one is poised to do that and more. Both Yasmin and Joe are on the road to successful careers as physicians in current day Britain. That may be where similarities end.
Yasmin was raised in a fundamentalist Hindu home, strictly professing (if not quite adhering to) all of its morays: male-dominated, avoiding alcohol, rigorous work ethic, and absolutely no acknowledgment of sex. Yasmin desperately wants to know the history of her parent’s courtship – since there was the unusual “love marriage” – but neither seems interested or willing to give it.
Joe on the other hand – a white, suburban Londoner – was raised primarily by his lesbian, feminist mother whose overt expression of sexuality provided a life without taboo.
As Yasmin and Joe prepare to begin a life together, each is faced with peeling back the onion of their upbringing. Joe begins working with a counselor to overcome an addiction he knows he can’t carry into marriage and learns that there was less freedom in his home than he realized. And Yasmin begins to test her father’s expectations – in the wake of her brother’s extreme resistance to them – and comes to understand that her parent’s marriage is perhaps not what it may have seemed.
So while both Yasmin and Joe begin to break free from their expectations of and from parental figures, they have to face their own upcoming marriage and the implications of beginning a new life together.
Love Marriage is engaging story that explores love, sex, family history, forgiveness and acceptance in all their many layers and among all relationships: spousal (and potential spousal), sibling, parental – even friendships and colleagues. Love Marriage would make a fantastic book club discussion.
Book Club Prompts
Familial expectations play a big part in the novel. How are the expectations of both Yasmin’s and Joe’s families similar and different?
Discuss gender in Yasmin’s family and how gender differs in the two generations (parents vs Yasmin and her brother).
Joe’s mom prided herself in breaking stereotypes. Discuss this in light of Joe’s addiction and subsequent therapy.
How are Yasmin’s father and Joe’s mother alike?
Sex and sexuality are key to many of the characters. How does it change from one generation to another?
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