The Pleasure Seekers is another book that was long listed for the 2011 Orange Prize but did not make it to the short list. Unlike with Whatever You Love I would have liked to have seen this book make the short list - I'm not sure if I really have any idea about the criteria judges use to take a book to the next level (surely it must be subjective to some degree??) but I felt this was a beautiful story told brilliantly.
The story starts in India in 1968 when Babo Patel, the eldest son of Prem Kumar Patel and his wife Trishala, is about to set out for London to continue his studies, make a success of himself in business and return to India to marry a nice Indian girl of the Jain faith. This plan is all set to succeed until Babo meets and falls in love with Welsh girl, Sian.
On many levels this is an ordinary story about an ordinary family going about the ordinary tasks and events of daily life - love, study, employment, death, trauma, conflict, happiness. What makes this book special is the way in which the story is told. These ordinary events which could be told in a fleeting, superficial way become rich stories of character - you feel in some ways as though you are a member of the Patel family too, living the story along with them. This is true skill in a writer for me - I could have read about this family for another 500 pages easily and not become disinterested.
A beautiful story with memorable characters (the character of Babo's daughter Bean would have to be one of the richest, most fully developed characters I have read in a long time - loved her!) - one to savour and read again.