Set in southern India, The Marriage Bureau for Rich People — a story about Mr. Ali, a retired Muslim man who enterprisingly sets up a marriage bureau for matchmaking an assistant — brings to mind Alexander McCall Smith‘s The #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, set in Botswana’s capital city, Gaborone. There, the sensible, self-taught private investigator Precious Ramotswe resolves other people’s problems, commenting frequently on the clash of modern and traditional ways. Here, Mr. Ali — along with his wife and assistant — gets involved in the lives and loves of city folk and villagers of all castes, religions, and political persuasions through his prospering marriage bureau.
Although his writing doesn’t yet flow as naturally as Alexander McCall Smith’s about his beloved Botswana, Farahad Zama, has a similar light touch with the complex, intractable social problems of his own home country. Like The #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, it’s the first book in a potentially long-running series, so characters will likely be more developed in The Many Conditions of Love, already released in the U.K.
The Marriage Bureau for Rich People was recommended to me by a reader at the library as a “really nice story,” emphasis on nice (i.e. no sex, violence, or swearwords). I recommend it to anyone who enjoys experiencing another country’s culture through reading about the everyday lives of people there. As with The #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (again), The Marriage Bureau for Rich People has been made into an excellent Recorded Books audio edition. (Read the AudioFile review here.)
Interestingly, according to the author’s Web site, his own marriage was arranged for him in India before he and his wife moved to London, where their two children were born and where they still live.
Sample the first chapter of The Marriage Bureau for Rich People on the author’s Web site here.
Check availability of The Marriage Bureau for Rich People in the Old Colony Library Network online catalog here.