Here I’m picking off a more recent acquisition from the TBR (although I’ve realised this is outside my “get my TBR read” challenge as I bought it this year, oops) as I couldn’t wait to read it. I read Bhagat’s “One Night @ The Call Centre” back in 2006 (Matthew read it, too) and absolutely loved it, but hadn’t seen his books here in the UK – I did manage to buy a load of them in a Kindle sale a year or two ago but I was thrilled to find this copy in a local charity shop, published in India and somehow arriving in South Birmingham.

Chetan Bhagat – “Two States: The Story of my Marriage”

(03 January 2020, Oxfam charity shop)

I like a culture clash novel very much, usually the clash arising from some sort of expatriatism, or at very least inter-religion issue, but here we have a protagonist and his girlfriend who are both from what is supposed to be a uniform culture in India – but he’s from the Punjab via Delhi and she’s from South India, with her family in Chennai, and these cultures are VERY different and mutually suspicious, with stressful and sometimes hilarious issues ensuing when they try to keep their university love match going as they grow up and move away from education.

It was absolutely fascinating to read about student and working life in modern India – not something I’ve read a huge amount about although I’ve read many novels set there over the years. But the book is certainly not just a dry learning experience – there is much to cheer on and admire, and giggle at, in the machinations that Krish and Ananya engate in in order to bring their highly suspicious family members together after working hard to win them over themselves (poor Krish comes off very badly in this, leaving his “chummery” lodgings at goodness knows what time in the morning to tutor Ananya’s younger brother).

No one is demonised – Bhagat’s express aim is to bring about unity in modern India rather than discord – and we’re shown how both sides make assumptions and conform to stereotypes (South Indians are considered to be cold and obsessed with money; Punjabis always shouting and obessed with food, and indeed both families do this, hilariously, at each other). There are great set-pieces – the graduation where Krish’s mum mutters a list of South Indian actresses who are only out to snag a Punjabi boy, or the wedding where the Delhi faction are scandalised at having to get up so early. But there’s heart and emotion too, and some very sweet bits.

I keep seeming to pull a summarising quotation out of my reads this year and this is the one for this book:

In an Indian love marriage, by the time everyone gets on board, one wonders if there is any love left. (p. 224)

Ananya is a great, strong character, bolshy and able to get stuff done herself at yet another wedding. It’s a fun, instructional and ultimately positive read and I’m REALLY excited to have seen on Bhagat’s Twitter feed that he’s just finished writing his next new novel (and I have a few to read on my Kindle still).

I’ve also finished “Mudlarking” which I borrowed from lovely Mary Ellen, but have run out of days to review January reads. I’m currently getting on nicely with “On the Map” by Simon Garfield and “ABC for Book Collectors” and am course excited about starting my next Paul Magrs tomorrow (did you want to take part in my competition to win one of his lovely out of print novels? Info here).