Love Marriage is the brand new novel from the legend that is Monica Ali. It’s been 11 years since she released her last book, Untold Story, so I think I speak for everyone when I say that I’m glad to see she’s back to writing novels.
The story follows Yasmin Ghorami, a twenty six year old doctor, and her engagement to fellow doctor and son of famous novelist, Joe Sangster. As the day of their wedding draws nearer, the couple are challenged with long-held secrets in their families’ histories, misunderstandings and infidelities, all the while overcoming the cultural and class differences from their upbringings.
In her foreword Ali writes, ‘As the title suggests, this is a novel about love and marriage in today’s Britain, exploring what those things mean across generations and cultures. It’s about the psychology of relationships: blame and responsibility, guilt and shame, desire and sex. Along the way, it might raise some questions about race and representation, identity, feminism and sexuality. But it isn’t heavy, I promise. I really want readers to enjoy it. I hope you find it humorous and entertaining and, above all, a good old-fashioned, propulsive read.”
While reading this book it’s important to bear all of these points in mind. Ali has written this text first and foremost to entertain and in this regard I think it succeeds - especially for a 500 page-long book. I say this because as someone who has read (and loved) Ali’s most famous work, Brick Lane, Love Marriage was not the novel I expected it to be and that was my fault entirely. Love Marriage is written a lot like a romance novel - less literary fiction - and while the book addresses a myriad of societal issues, it’s ultimately intended to be a feel-good, page turner.
Generally I thought the characters were well-written and developed, although personally I think the characterisation of Rania (Yasmin’s best friend and the only hijabi in the novel) lacked nuance. She came across as slightly cliched and some things she did in the novel felt out of character which was a little disappointing.
What I found really great about this novel, however, were the subtle nods to the microaggressions and unfair treatment faced by non-white workers in the medical profession - a poignant topic these days. The way Ali weaves social commentary in with a readable and engaging plot is typical of her style and demonstrates how even in a light-hearted book such as this, these types of experiences are not extraordinary. There were moments like this in the book where Yasmin was working in the hospital that will stay with me long after reading.
Although this isn’t the type of book I would usually go for, I was surprised at how quickly I got through it and that’s credit to Ali’s great writing, excellent pacing and her ability to keep you guessing until the end. Read this book if you’re a fan of romance or contemporary lit, or if you want to read Brown books without the trauma.
A big thank you to Virago for my gifted copy. Love Marriage will be available to purchase from February 3rd.