“Dedicated to every woman who’s ever been told she couldn’t … but did it anyway.”
Perhaps it is weird to start with a quote from the dedication and not from the text itself, but it is such an encapsulation of the book that I couldn’t resist. Never before have I related so much to a protagonist in a novel. All my life I have read books about women who aren’t really like me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Austen, I adore Sylvia Plath and I appreciate Jean Rhys giving voice to the madwoman in the attic – but I couldn’t properly relate to the women they wrote about.
Other books came along, books like Anita and Me from Meera Syal, any book from Arundati Roy and my personal favourite The Rice Mother from Rani Manicka. Anita and Me came close, but the protagonist was too young for me to completely relate, and both Roy and Manicka have tragedy and teardrops lacing every line of their work.
I am just a regular Indian girl, who became an English teacher like Leila, someone who spent most of my youth dreaming of a romance akin to a Bollywood film. She is so much like me on paper that I am certain we would be besties if she wasn’t fictional. With all the traction that representation and diversity has been getting in books and film, The Marriage Clock is a strong contributor to the conversation.
Raheem writes for women living in our modern, contemporary society, where we are encouraged to study and better ourselves, yet carry the societal requirement of marriage. For Leila, getting married is considered a fulfillment of her faith, but after a certain age, the time for waiting and tentative choice is no longer in play. Why are you still single at 26? Tongues start wagging and bio-datas of eligible men are forced upon you. It is less about connection and love, and more about duty.
Leila’s life suddenly kicks into high gear when her parents start hounding her about her marriage clock. After going through some disastrous set-ups arranged by her parents, Leila decides to take things into her own hands. She tries everything, online dating, speed dating, which all end horribly, though these sequences gave me quite the laugh.
After all this disappointment, the ones that shine through the cracks are inundated with more expectation. My heart broke when Leila’s did; we all know what it feels like to hope so much and then crash into a brick wall that tells you maybe you weren’t good enough. You replay every moment in your head, wondering if he had given you a sign that he just wasn’t interested and you were too busy falling for him to notice.
“It seemed the more I chased after love, the more confused I felt about it.”
The Marriage Clock is a reminder that falling in love is so goddamn hard, which is definitely a unique presentation in the rom-com genre. Typical rom-coms make it very clear from the onset who the lovers are, but in this novel, we have no idea who will strike Leila’s fancy. We want Leila to fall in love so badly we forget that real life isn’t like that. It can even get to a point where you fall in love and build a connection, and things might still not work out. Raheem delivers on the romance, but she is realistic in the way it plays out.
The discussion of arranged marriage is also nuanced and thoughtful. We see different presentations of it, with some succeeding and others failing. It is a reminder that the success of a marriage depends on the two people in it, arranged or by choice. The Marriage Clock emphasizes that knowing who you are and what you want is the first step, the rest will fall into place once you figure that out.
Fans of Sophie Kinsella will appreciate Raheem’s humour and writing style. It was so enjoyable that I didn’t want it to end, still tapping on my kindle to flip a page when there wasn’t any left to turn. If you are looking for a fun read that makes you laugh and gives you an experience akin to eating the sweetest, most mouth-watering laddu, this is the book for you. Be warned though, it will end and you will have to say goodbye.
Review copy provided
The Marriage Clock is everything you want in a romance novel. It has humour, heart and a boat-load of Indian sweetmeats.