After Suitable Boy, India in frenzy over A Suitable Girl

It was a novel that told the story of India in a time of change and transition, as a newly independent country fought to find its way. It was a mammoth tale, told in almost 600,000 words. Detailing an anxious mother's search for a match for her daughter, it was called A Suitable Boy.

Now the poet and novelist Vikram Seth has revealed he is working on a sequel set in today's changing India. It is said to have earned Seth an advance of £1.7m, and the title alone has been enough to spark huge anticipation: A Suitable Girl.

Suitably enough, Seth revealed details of his new project in the week that an Indian court decriminalised gay sex, in effect overturning a 150-year-old law introduced by the British. Seth, who had campaigned for gay rights in India, said his new novel, to be published in 2013, will reflect recent changes.

"There are many, many changes in Indian society but many things remain the same," said Seth, speaking yesterday from his home in Salisbury. "The greatest pleasure," he added, "will be to get back in touch with the characters and find out what has happened to them."

In A Suitable Boy, the main character is the rebellious 19-year-old Lata, whose mother tries to find her a husband. In the sequel, which the 57-year-old writer said he has "doodled" bits and pieces of, she will be in her eighties and searching for a bride for her grandson. The rights have been bought by the Penguin imprint Hamish Hamilton.

The Kolkata-born Seth said that there was a gay sub-plot to A Suitable Boy, but did not say whether in the sequel Lata's grandson might opt for a male partner rather than a young wife. He added that it was coincidental that his announcement of the sequel came as the Delhi High Court decriminalised gay sex. He told an Indian journalist that the court's decision was "wonderfully good, humane and lucid".

Seth's original story, which sold more than a million copies in its UK paperback edition, played out against the backdrop of the years immediately after partition, a hugely traumatic event that left hundreds of thousands of Hindus and Muslims dead. The newly independent country was struggling to deal with the challenges of famine, mass poverty and uncertainty about its future.

While deprivation and hunger have never left the subcontinent, the India of A Suitable Girl will be markedly different. Economic reforms have created a confident, consumerist middle class, India is a regional power, and will soon become the third largest economy in the world. By 2031 it will have the largest population.

Yet as Seth points out, many of the issues important in 1952, when his original story was set, are still important: land reform, the rights of women, religious intolerance. But, he adds: "As a novelist, I cannot write about an issue as a dissertation or political essay. The causes have to be something my characters are interested in, or caught up."

The writer and critic Sunil Sethi said Seth’s original novel struck a chord with those interested in post-independence India. “It was every middle-class grandfather or grandmother’s story,” he said. “The changes in India in the last 20 or 30 years have been as large as the nation has ever seen. If he can capture the changes, then I think A Suitable Girl will be a success too.”

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam