London: Noted Indian writer Vikram Seth’s much acclaimed novel A Suitable Boy is among the best 25 books of the past quarter century, a poll of book lovers revealed today.
The best book of the past 25 years is J K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book, which in a series has become a worldwide phenomenon and a cash cow, has topped the poll by the book chain Waterstone’s to find the best reads published in the last quarter century.
The list of top 25 contains a Booker Prize winner — Yann Martel’s Life of Pi; some beach reads — The Da Vinci Code and Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth; powerful politics - Jung Chang’s Wild Swans; and highly praised literary fiction — Sebastian Faulk’s Birdsong and Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Seth’s A Suitable Boy is 23rd in the list.
Kolkata-born 55-year-old Seth has published eight notable works — six collections of poetry and two novels — with a ninth novel soon to come.
During the period before and after Seth published his first novel, he contributed poetic works for more than a decade. Seth’s books of poetry include Mappings (1980), From Heaven Lake (1983), which discusses a hitch-hiking trip through Nepal into India that Seth took while studying in China, the Humble Administrator’s Garden (1985), All You Who Sleep Tonight (1990), Beastly Tales (1991) and Three Chinese Poets (1992).
These works broach a variety of subjects indicative of Seth’s education and experiences.
In 1986, Seth wrote The Golden Gate, his first novel, whose publication in 1993 propelled him into the public spotlight.
The novel is set in the political hotbed that characterised India during the post-independence, post-partition decade of the 1950s. This story examines the inner-workings and travails of four families, the Kapoors, Mehras, Chatterjis and Khans.
Two primary characters in this story are Rupa Mehra and Lata, her marriageable but rebellious youngest daughter. Seth is most proud of his vibrant of Mehra, who is based in part on Seth’s grandmother, also named Rupa Mehra.
Rupa Mehra is a widow whose mission throughout the novel is to take care of her family, and in particular, the search for a suitable Hindu husband for Lata. However, at the same time, Lata is torn by her mother’s wishes and her love for a Muslim boy.
Seth sees A Suitable Boy as a plea for religious tolerance, among other things.