Skip to main content

Love Marriage

Review

Love Marriage

I vividly remember reading and loving Monica Ali’s Booker Prize-shortlisted debut novel, BRICK LANE, which introduced me to a part of London that I had not previously encountered in literature. When I sat down to read LOVE MARRIAGE, I glanced back to see when BRICK LANE was published. I was astonished to see that it came out nearly two decades ago, and it’s been 11 years since Ali has released any book at all. The good news is that her writing has only continued to mature and develop in the intervening years.

"If, like me, it's been far too long since you’ve spent time with Monica Ali’s writing, LOVE MARRIAGE offers the perfect chance to get reacquainted."

LOVE MARRIAGE is set in 2016 and 2017 in London, and centers on Yasmin Ghorami, who is in her mid-20s and seems to be following a path set out for her by her immigrant parents. For as long as she can remember, Yasmin has been a kindred spirit with her father, a general practitioner, following in his footsteps and attending medical school. She is now doing a rotation in geriatric medicine, and although she still enjoys talking medicine with her father, she has started to question if being a doctor is the right career aspiration for her.

One other thing that Yasmin has rarely questioned is her relationship with her fiancé, Joe, another young doctor. Joe comes from a radically different background. His mother, Harriet, is an intellectual and a provocateur, a feminist writer and artist who --- unlike Yasmin’s fiercely private parents --- talks about sex and sexuality not only openly but often. Sure, Harriet can be, well, a lot, but neither Yasmin’s conservative family nor Harriet’s bohemian lifestyle are going to get in the way of Joe and Yasmin’s relationship.

The thing is, virtually nothing is as it seems. Joe is keeping a pretty big secret --- which he doesn’t even entirely understand himself --- from Yasmin, and almost before she realizes what she’s doing, she’s keeping perhaps an even bigger one from him. Meanwhile, she’s navigating a huge rift in her own family. Her father has cut himself off from her shiftless younger brother after he reveals his girlfriend’s pregnancy, and now her mom has also moved out (and moved in with Harriet!) in protest.

What starts out as a novel about planning a wedding that crosses two very different cultures evolves into something quite different. LOVE MARRIAGE is about coming of age when you thought (perhaps wrongly) that you already had arrived. It’s about realizing that your parents are fully realized human beings with faults and foibles and complicated histories of their own. It’s about allowing the opportunity for honesty and openness to pass you by, and then living with the consequences of secrecy. And it’s about reinventing oneself at any age, and how both scary and liberating that can be.

If, like me, it's been far too long since you’ve spent time with Monica Ali’s writing, LOVE MARRIAGE offers the perfect chance to get reacquainted.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on May 6, 2022

Love Marriage
by Monica Ali

  • Publication Date: May 3, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • ISBN-10: 1982181478
  • ISBN-13: 9781982181475