The novel Love Marriage by Booker Award–finalist Monica Ali opens in the London bedroom of 26-year-old Dr. Yasmin Ghorami. The delicious scents of her ma’s cooking—pans of curries and deep-fried savories—waft through her parents’ townhouse. Ma’s food will be packed into Tupperware containers to be taken to the home of Harriet Sangster.
Harriet is a feminist and a writer of great renown. She is also the mother of Joe, Yasmin’s fiancé. This dinner will be the first meeting between Harriet and Yasmin’s parents, Dr. Shaokat Ghorami and Anisah. There they will begin the plans for their children’s wedding. Yasmin is anxious about first impressions on both sides, to say the least.
Joe, like Yasmin, is a doctor. His profession makes up for the fact that Joe is not from India and is not Muslim. Yasmin’s marriage will be a love marriage, as was her parents’. Her father was poor and orphaned. He worked his way through school. Her mother was the daughter of a wealthy businessman, who paid for his son-in-law’s medical training. The young couple moved to London, where Yasmin’s father finished training and found employment.
Both Yasmin and her younger brother, Arif, were born in England. Their experience of the country is dramatically different from their parents’ situation. They feel the slights—and often outright racism—accorded to brown-skinned people, something that their parents ignore or do not notice.
As the plans for Yasmin and Joe’s marriage get underway, family secrets long suppressed come to the fore. Cultures clash. Like episodic TV, this novel both surprises and satisfies in all the best ways.
Contributed by Maureen Millea Smith, a retired Edina librarian and a Minnesota Book Award–winning novelist. You can find her books at maureenmilleasmith.com.