The new instant Sunday Times Bestseller from Monica Ali, the Booker-Prize shortlisted author of “Brick Lane,” “Love Marriage” (Virago, 2022) is an interesting story about love and family across cultures. The novel, set in London, has as its protagonist, twenty-six-year-old Yasmin Ghorami. An unassuming medic, she is engaged to be married to the handsome twenty-nine-year-old Joe Sangster, a fellow doctor. However, as the wedding day draws closer, the two families get to know each other, and themselves, better, and all is definitely not as well as it seems.
While in Yasmin’s conservative Muslim household, sex is a taboo subject, Joe’s feminist mother, Harriet Sangster, on the other hand, is very open about her polyamorous lifestyle and views. Further, Joe has abandonment and other issues of his own for which he is seeing a therapist. It doesn’t help either that Yasmin’s irresponsible younger brother, Arif, is still figuring out what he wants from life. With no job and vague aims, he has managed to impregnate Lucy, his British girlfriend, which adds more chaos to the story.
As Joe and Yasmin’s relationship is embroiled in a clash of cultural differences, the sharp contrast between South Asian and British families is exposed. While the English middle classes do not seem to meddle in their children’s matrimonial affairs the South Asian families can’t let go of any part of it.
Hidden secrets, lies, and betrayals add layers to the plot. The protagonist, Yasmin is forced to realize that nobody is perfect and that no marriage, whether love or arranged, exists without risks.
Monica Ali is the author of four previous novels. “Love Marriage” is her first novel in a decade. Through her characters, Ali explores several questions related to Islamic identities in a global world, such as stereotyping, racism, oppression, Islamophobia, and the hijab.
Overall, the book is a social comedy, which throws light on some important ideas, confusions, and complexities of young modern love in contemporary times.
“Love Marriage” famously quotes: “What was love anyway, except a biological trick? It was larger doses of hormones like oxytocin and dopamine, which delivered a euphoric rush. It was lower levels of serotonin, which included anxiety and made you focus obsessively on the object of your ‘love’. It was elevated levels of adrenalin and norepinephrine making your heart flutter and your palms sweat.”
Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer who lives to read, write, and travel. Her other loves include listening to music and watching movies.