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5 Books like 2 States: Impossibly Tangled Marriages

Kedar Prasana itcherBooks like ‘2 States’ will be a great follow-up to your recently found love for novels that revolve around love, marriage and a million things that lie in between these brackets. Books in this list include ‘Clear Light of Day’, ‘A Suitable Boy’, ‘Family Matters’, ‘The Days of Abandonment’ and ‘The Marriage Plot’. ~ Kedar Prasana

Love: What to Make of It?

The world’s most sensible person and the biggest idiot both stay within us. The worst part is, you can’t even tell who is who.

The quote above just about sums up ‘2 States’ – a novel so strangely formulaic and predictable that, at best, it could be described as mildly entertaining (many others seem to agree).

But the subject matter that Chetan Bhagat, the author, touches upon – marriages and their follies – is not really one he should have thought of handling with such levity.

The plot is about how two generic Indian youngsters named Krish and Ananya, hailing from two diametrically opposite corners of the country, chance upon a love that is prosaic and blasé to the nth degree.

You shouldn’t, however, stop reading about love and marriage altogether. What a book like ‘2 States’ fails to achieve in permanency, the following books do in style.  

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Books Similar to ‘2 States’…

‘Clear Light of Day’ (Anita Desai, 1980)

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There comes, from time to time, a time for enlightenment. We all dread that moment. We are happier in the dark, shooting arrows nobody sees, knowing not who shot us.

Anita Desai (some of our readers might know her as the mother of Man Booker Prize winning author Kiran Desai) is one of the finest and quite unfortunately, most underrated authors that India has produced.

Blessed with a simple style that goes straight to the heart of the matter, Desai presents us a multi-layered picture of a superficially normal Delhi family grappling with issues of budding love interests and decaying marriages.

Similarity Match: 90%
Non-conformist love interests is one thread that makes these two books similar to each other. Desai, however, has a much more appealing and sincerer prose than Chetan Bhagat.

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‘A Suitable Boy’ (Vikram Seth, 1993)

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Man without life companion is either god or beast.

Vikram Seth, when he released ‘A Suitable Boy’ in 1993, made waves of headlines because of the hefty paycheques he received for the manuscript.

Ever since then, ‘A Suitable Boy’ has been the benchmark for unbelievable and never-ending (literally, this is one of the longest novels ever) Indian melodramas.

But that’s not meant to put you off. It has a great plot that, as one can predict, revolves around arranged marriages in India, where cast and characters keep pouring in like a hailstorm bounty.

Similarity Match: 85%
‘A Suitable Boy’ is much vaster in coverage of marriages than ‘2 States’ could ever hope to be. Apart from marriages, parallel social commentary of the times ties the books together.

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‘Family Matters’ (Rohinton Mistry, 2002)

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There’s no denying the existence of heaven or hell. It’s ever-shifting, he thought, ever-present, ever-obvious.

Rohinton Mistry, in his inimitable Dickensian-esque prose, is always seething with possibilities despite being reassuring. This novel presents a great outlook of traditional Parsi lifestyle in Bombay.

Marriages take the centre stage in the lives of an ordinary Parsi family as societal events surrounding them enforce irreversible changes in the very system of values they are so compelled to stick by.

Similarity Match: 80%
Marriages, social juxtaposition of characters and, well, Indian roots connect ‘Family Matters’ and ‘2 States’. On the prose front, Bhagat, again, seems to offer nothing in comparison with Mistry.

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If You Like ‘2 States’, You Will Like…

‘2 States’ tries to deal with how a marriage comes to exist. But marriages, as they are wont to, do seem to turn sour in many cases. So, let’s take a look at some withering marital stories, from a broader international perspective.  

‘The Days of Abandonment’ (Elena Ferrante, 2002)

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What a mistake, above all, it had been to believe that I couldn’t live without him, when for a long time I had not been at all certain that I was alive with him.

Quite simply, this is one of the strongest and most gut-wrenching novels I have come across so far.

The primary storyline describes the rigors of a bad divorce that a working mother has to endure, while a parallel storyline describes her once-true marital pleasures in a way that reads like a dream – or nightmare, whichever way you want to read it.  

With ‘The Days of Abandonment’, Elena Ferrante presents a set of unquestionably real characters, while ‘2 States’ fails to whisper life into any of its own. Thus, the subject matter of a marriage is the only common denominator here.

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‘The Marriage Plot’ (Jeffrey Eugenides, 2011)

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I am living through days as happy as those God keeps for his chosen people; and whatever becomes of me, I can never say that I have not tasted the purest joys of life.

Marriage is such a delicate and delightful subject matter that it attracts gossip mongers like few others. Perhaps that’s why the greatest English novelists of all – from Austen to Eliot and Bronte to Trollope – have staked great pains to write dutifully about Victorian and Edwardian marriages.

Jeffrey Eugenides dissects this institution quite tastefully in ‘The Marriage Plot’, a book whose storyline is given to marriages in entirety. At the eye of the storm are three grad students studying at Brown University who can’t seem to make any sense of love and all that follows.

‘2 States’ and ‘The Marriage Plot’ tackle the ubiquitous young-love-chaos with unrelenting zeal. ‘The Marriage Plot’, however, thickens quite nicely unlike ‘2 States’.

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Tying the Nought

Marriages form the most basic social building block of every society. So, it’s no wonder that most authors try to provide their own insights about marriages in one way or another.

If the above list left you wanting for more, you can always explore deeper with titles like ‘Howard’ End’, ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘The Forsyte Saga’, ‘Revolutionary Road’ and ‘Rebecca’.

Think you know more books that are similar to ‘2 States’?

Feel free to post your comments, feedback and suggestions in the space below.

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