Book Review: Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera

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Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera tells the story of Arjan Banga who returns to his family’s corner shop in Wolverhampton after his fathers unexpected death. When his mother refuses to sell the shop he finds himself back behind the counter and surrounded by the traditions of Sikh family life he had escaped to London from many years ago. His imminent marriage is suddenly in the balance and he is drawn back into his family’s complex past as he seeks to make sense of the present.
Along side Arjans story is the story of the Bains family, the previous owners of the shop. The chapters which are all named after magazines presumably sold in the shop, alternate between the two stories. Eventually the stories collide in an unexpected way half way through the novel leading to a surprising finale.
Much of the action takes place in and around the shop. Attention is given to the relationships between Asian shop keeper and customer and there is lots of lovely detail about the monotony of chit chat with customers along side the day to day running of the shop. The characters are all developed cleverly and the relationships between Arjan and the various females in the novel are especially warm and often touching.
There is lots of humour and the gentle way fun is poked at some of the Sikh Cultural traditions and nuances is entertaining. The book sharply observes cross cultural life in Britain in the 60’s, 70’s and today and is a great insight into both how much and also sometimes how little has changed.
I read this book quickly and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m now looking forward to investigating Sathnams first book ‘The Boy with the Topknot: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton’

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