... worth the wait ... The novel begins as a social comedy with the finely tuned cultural observations only found in the very best works of the East meets West literary tradition ... his great archaeological dig to uncover what is at the heart of contemporary humanity truly delivers on the promise of what Brick Lane suggested might come next from Ali ... What we are also far too familiar with as a society is the painful reality of the dark secrets that often lay undiscovered beneath cultural silences such as these. Ali’s delicate unravelling of the secret burning threads that tie families in knots for generations is exquisite ... The beating heart of this novel is the author’s uncompromising scrutiny of the messy, heart-breaking, head-wrecking, brutal beauty of family dynamics. All the characters are flawed, capable of receiving and delivering hurts, and a bundle of contradictions. This may be true of us all but, when the full gamut of potential human behaviour is captured with grit and grace on the page, it truly elevates the literature to become a lens of enlightenment through which we can finally see ourselves. Heroes and anti-heroes fuse to create multidimensional characters who each evoke huge empathy ... Ali’s rendering of sibling-parent relationships is a masterclass in family psychology played out with subtlety, intellect and great humour ... could be the novel we all desperately need to read in 2022. Rich, insightful, soulful, with a cast of characters not easily forgotten, this is a traditional novel in the best sense of the word. It offers the sort of immersive reading experience that may remind you why you first fell in love with reading.
The subtleties of hospital hierarchy and the reality of life on an overstretched, underfunded (this is 2016) geriatrics ward are so vividly described you might wonder if Ali has spent the past ten years training to be a medic. But of course, as one of Harriet’s novelist friends points out in one of the book’s few moments of clunky meta-commentary, a fiction writer needn’t write only about the things she has experienced ... There are many things Ali wants to talk to us about in this epic but easy to read book ... Love Marriage is Brick Lane for 2022 with nicer interiors and more sex, and will be lapped up by fans of Ali’s debut. Yet it is also the work of a mature feminist author who is ready, after her novels about chefs and princesses, to return to the knotty problem at the heart of British family life: how can we bring up our children when we do not understand their world, nor they ours? Is love enough? Yasmin and her family work together to answer this question, becoming dear friends to the reader along the way.
Monica Ali’s rich, sensitive and gloriously entertaining novel – her fifth, and possibly her best – juggles so many questions and plot lines that we keep expecting one of them to break free and become detached, like the crazily orbiting fragments of Yasmin’s new life; yet everything remains utterly coherent and convincing. Weighty topics, such as race, class, cultural identity and immigration, surface as part of the tragicomedy of everyday life ... opens with a delicious collision, the kind of extended set-piece that fleshes out the novel, and at which Ali excels, brimming with extremely funny moments of excruciating social comedy ... For all its precise comic timing and consummate plotting, the novel’s real strength lies in its depiction of complex social encounters, leaving the reader to decide which side, if any, to take. Sometimes, the absurdity helps us to make up our minds ... feels at once everyday and exceptional, a love letter to the richness of London life.
Packed with compelling characters and thrilling plot twists, Love Marriage is surely poised to be just as big [as Brick Lane] – and, arriving a decade after her last novel,it is more than worth the wait ... Once again the book is a brilliant exploration of the complexities of human connection ... A backdrop of division proves counter-intuitively fitting for a novel about unity – between cultures, families and couples. Even as its ending looks poised to atomise its characters and their connections, Love Marriage’s final note is one of hope and togetherness.
In a book that is about how sex may be even more difficult to house within marriage than love, it is odd that these crucial episodes are described so abstractly when the narrative is so generously specific about food, clothes, houses and so forth ... Never mind. Love Marriage is enormously satisfying in its inventions and observations, and its exploration of cultural diversity in Britain. At once touching and satirical, it’s a great return to form: as engrossing and enjoyable as Brick Lane itself.
It is an exploration of multicultural British modernity, of love, sex, class, politics, faith and family. But how well does it work in literary terms? ... There are riches here. All the components of modern identity are laid out: race, class, gender, faith, sexuality. Ali explores generational and cultural tensions, as well as contemporary political issues ... There is a big cast and the chapters jump between several perspectives (we even, puzzlingly, get Joe’s psychotherapist), but perhaps because we enter so many heads, often fleetingly, complexities begin to flatten. Joe, for instance, never quite emerges from the psychological diagnosis that defines him ... One notable exception is Baba. Tormented by hang-ups, he is a fully realised and often moving character ... This novel is largely engaging, entertaining and relevant and there will be lots of love for it, possibly prizes. Ali is a good storyteller, sometimes enlightening, but there is the feeling of a smaller, tighter, more devastating novel lurking here. As it is, the emotional punches can get a little lost amid the padding and point-making.
Intelligent and agreeably old-fashioned ... The novel is well rooted in the everyday ... Inevitably one theme will be seen as a clash of cultures, and indeed this is the case, but this is done with more understanding, intelligence, humour and sympathy than is usual ... All the characters are convincing, even though one may think that the exploration and elucidation of Joe’s nature – more complicated than at first apparent – might have been better done than through his sessions with the psychiatrist. These episodes read like a somewhat static, flat exploration whereas almost everything we learn of the other characters is presented dramatically ... She is however, for the most part, a natural and very engaging storyteller who recognizes the importance of presenting scenes and changes of mood and judgement dramatically ... It doesn’t set out to be clever or bizarre; it tells a story about people in whose life there is little that is extravagant or remarkable – even though there may be dark passages, even horrors, in the past. Its characters are all people who try to live decent and admirable lives, who encounter difficulties and for the most part face up to them. It tells of ordinary people trying to do right by themselves and others, and it does this very well and engagingly.
... riveting ... The novel’s structure makes the most of these reckonings. Though Yasmin is the novel’s anchor, the multiple points of view allow a panoramic view of the unfolding events. Ali includes perhaps a few too many perspectives; some, like Harriet’s, only anchor one or two short chapters. But overall, Ali’s character treatments are multifaceted, humane and fluid in this multicultural family drama in which, like a multi-car pileup, individuals careen into and away from one another.
... filled with people who are not just likeable, but loveable. This contract of sympathy, which flows between reader and characters, deepens and enriches the portrait of contemporary London that Ali creates with a confident Dickensian sweep ... teems with domestic epiphanies and brutalities ... wildly entertaining. As you read you’re thoroughly immersed in the intricacies of Ali’s characters ... This is a bold and generous book, with large portions set in a sprawling hospital — the perfect backdrop for asking powerful questions about what constitutes health in life and health in love, now.
If the novel’s mickey-taking of Harriet as a superannuated pin-up of second-wave feminism feels especially pointed, it may be relevant that Germaine Greer once wrote sharply on the row over Brick Lane ... Either way, Harriet’s story, like everyone’s here, is ultimately about sympathy, not score-settling. Even Ali’s broadest strokes – as when Anisah falls for a lesbian performance artist – butter us up for a sucker-punch climax in which a variety of buried sorrows come to light ... A topically freighted tale of premarital tension told with easy-reading propulsion, Love Marriage has the air of a surefire hit, and at the very least deserves to underwrite whatever curveball Ali has up her sleeve for next time: roll on the eco-thriller.
Ali’s strength lies in exploring the many ways in which class complications manifest ... The finale is rich, bawdy, and bold, a dramatization of the many ways we fail those closest to us and build lives on shifting sediments of buried feelings. And yet we live for love.
Ali’s immersive novel, skipping deftly between several points of view, might be termed a comedy of manners of Britain’s urban middle class, but the comedy here has teeth: Though the book treats its characters with affection, the racial dynamics are conveyed with real, heart-rending bite ... A keen look at London life, relationships (especially interracial ones)—and a return to Ali’s most celebrated territory.
... complex yet breezy ... The characters’ brisk discussions on politics, culture, and race skate over ideological divides, the substance of which emerges in dramatic irony and creates a textured portrayal of an immigrant family. This is sure to please Ali’s fans and win some new ones.