Flower, Flower, Flower.
Once upon a couple weeks ago I was killing time in a large chain bookstore (LCB) while waiting for a friend. I had been wanting to read something by Emile Zola for a while so I decided to look at what LCB had in stock. Have you ever read Zola, Flower? If so what did you think? I've never tried him but I recently watched The Life Of Emile Zola (love the bio pic) and that reminded me that I wanted to read him.
The only Zola LBC had in stock was their own edition of Nana. I was disappointed. I'm no big spender. I would like everything to be published as a mass market. But. I find LCB's editions to be too cheap and cheesey for me. The cover designs use unappealing, washed out colors and are boring, the paper the books are printed on is such a sub-par quality that the books never close and the paper actually sucks the moisture right out of my hands, the bindings are #@$% and that's not the worst of it.
What's worse is that if LCB has an edition of their own of classic work A they rarely stock any other editions of that title. I don't want to give anyone LCB's horrid edition of Jane Eyre. Books are like food--presentation counts! Would it cost them so much to also stock the Penguin or Random House Modern Library edition or something? Arugh! I want a nice edition and if there is a choice of editions I want the choice. My choice was to stop by my local independent bookstore and get my book there. Where I'd like you to know they had a choice of the Penguin or Oxford editions of Nana and 2 other Zola novels in stock as well.
My time in LCB was not wasted. Oh no my floral friend. While searching for Zola, the idol of France, I found Farahad Zama.
That brighter than bright cover caught my eye immediately. Look at it. It's lovely. You aren't going to stumble across colors like that in any ho-hum world. It was love at first sight, Flower and interest soon after as I read the description. It wasn't purchase at first sight though. My cash once again went to my local.
How wonderful when my instincts are right. The Marriage Bureau for Rich People is a delight with a conscience. Mr Ali has retired from the Indian civil service. He feels the need to keep doing something so he opens a marriage bureau on the veranda. Almost immediately his matchmaking company is a success despite the local Aunties. Good thing since this gets him out of the way of Mrs Ali and their activist son. The Bureau has a lively and touching clientele all with very specific needs. Into the business comes modest Aruna. From a poor but proud family Aruna longs to be a bride but knows that without family money that won't ever happen. Ta-Da! Enter a sort of Doctor Darcy and the happy endings spring forth.
Marriage Bureau is a warmhearted and winsome novel. There is a helping of Jane Austen in the humor and social assessments and Alexander McCall Smith in Zama's light touch in showing us the grim realities of political corruption, the caste system and poverty that the average Indian is up against without losing the cozy community feeling of the novel. Mr Ali's love connection business also reminded me of one of my all time, extra favorite novels, (Also set in India.) A Suitable Boy. For me, not living in India, Marriage Bureau also has a built in exotic element in the setting and a mysterious quality in the customs. Zama has written a bewitching take you away from your troubles book.