Review: The Wedding Countdown – Ruth Saberton : Idealising Arranged Marriage?

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When faced with the prospect of 23 hours’ worth of flight time on a plane with no entertainment system, you can’t blame a girl for turning to trashy chick lit for comfort. That is exactly what I did on my recent travels. The Wedding Countdown is trashy, pretty poorly written ‘romance’ novel littered with factual inaccuracies (Canary Wharf is apparently on the Central Line: P). And although I could tell from the get go that this wasn’t going to be intellectually stimulating literature, I ploughed through it because the subject matter is something I thought would be worth discussing on Rinse.

The story centres around Amelia ‘Mills’ Ali, a modern educated Muslim girl who basically wants it all a fast-paced career, an active social life and of course LOVE and happily ever after. Unfortunately, she also wants to please her somewhat more traditional parents who come from a world where Mum and Dad always know what’s best for their daughter and in this case this means marrying an eligible young man from Pakistan!

Having already delayed the inevitable by going to university, Mills asks her parents to put off marriage plans for another year in order to allow her to pursue an internship in London, after which she’ll settle down with a man of their choosing (and move to Pakistan for her happily ever after!). Mills also decides to use her time in London to capitalise on a loop-hole in this whole arranged marriage system. She is on a mission to find a good, respectable Muslim who respects her values and won’t hold her back but also most importantly her parents will also approve of. As any single girl searching for love finding a bloke you can tolerate is hard enough without bringing the olds into it.

While the story touched on a whole lot of important issues like the challenges of being in interracial/intercultural relationships, chasing bad boys, being jilted at the alter and generally learning how to do deal with pervy guys and cheaters, I do think the author sugar-coated the realities of arranged marriages. I’m not going to give the game away here but let’s just say the happy clappy account doesn’t match up with the stories you read in the newspaper. It’s all a little bit far-fetched.

From my arguably Western, overly Disneyfied outlook on love the whole idea of having your folks choose a bloke for you and only meeting him a few days before you say those all-important vows seems rather grim. And having no idea about one another’s skills in the bedroom…let’s not even go there! I don’t know the reality of it all to be honest with you. Maybe arranged marriage works for some people. I guess if you are failing at dating (like a lot of us avid Tinderers) having Mummy and Daddy intervene before your resigned to life on the shelf doesn’t seem like the worst idea in the world. Hmmm…Still, I’m not convinced.

Despite my negative review of the book, it’s not all bad. There are a few good LOLs in the story and does introduce people to an subject matter that most of us have no experience with. And if you need some light entertainment during a long journey you could do worse (although in terms of shoddy writing it gives 50 shades a run for its money). Regardless, the book still got lots of good reviews on Amazon and its super cheap on Kindle, so that’s something.

Alrighty Rinsers – Share your views on arranged marriages in the comments below. Is it just an archaic form of family interference that needs to be abolished? Or do you think there is something to be said for getting Mum and Dad to do all the hard work on your behalf? Looking forward to hearing what y’all have to say…

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11 comments

  1. Sushmita · June 1, 2016

    Haha. This sounds interesting. Even I am skeptical about arranged marriage. I mean, most parents don’t even know their children (if they did, the world would have been a better place). Expecting such people to choose someone for you is kind of weird. Parents’ responsibility to make their kids independent. However, if it works for people then it’s great.

    Liked by 1 person

    • EnglishRosiee · June 2, 2016

      The whole process is interesting I guess. But also kinda sad as it seems like all that romance that we grew up with is dead and marriage becomes some sort of business deal. But yes, if you define success by lack of divorce there is a lot to be said for arranged marriages.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. sam1128 · June 1, 2016

    First and foremost Ruth Sabberton was writing a novel to be entertaining I haven’t read the book or reviews so I don’t know if she had a strong view on arranged marriage and hoped for debate or not but it’s an interesting spinoff. .
    As for arranged marriage as an independent woman I shudder at the thought and think if one doesn’t meet that compatible someone,perhaps it’s better to be free to live ones life as one wants.
    However there seems to be some evidence that some arranged marriages are very happy and end up with a deep love so it’s horses for courses.
    It’s maybe about the reasons for the arranged marriage,again there seems to be motives about the family, finances and class that all come first with the welfare of the daughter being bottom of the list. If the family genuinely want the daughter to be happy, financially secure and cared for and search for a man who will be compatible with the daughters personality and interests and give her some part in the process then arranged marriage may work as well as the inexact science of choosing for oneself.
    In some of the cultures where marriages are arranged the status of women is different both in terms of worth and their perceived roles this is maybe the big issue.
    It’s pressure and coercion that I would be concerned about. Especially where women have to move into their husbands home under the control of their mother in law.
    So having rambled not for me nor many women brought up in a western culture, it’s the Inponderables of the situation that make me not condem it .
    If it’s the parents searching for suitable partners and allowing them to meet and each to have a veto….it’s little different to internet dating!
    If the daughter is coerced and has no say it’s not right.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Plectrumm · June 1, 2016

    I personally don’t support the idea of arranging anyone’s wedding. The entire concept of marriage evolved with ideology, and culture. At some point in time beyond today, group selection via social evolution will adapt this entire process. For now, there’s some f€£k’d up cultural norms?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s funny but I’ve been thinking about arranged marriages a lot, especially after reading Modern Romance and watching Aziz Ansari’s Netflix show (His parents had an arranged marriage). I will say that I’m neither for or against arranged marriages, if only because marriage can mean a lot of different things to a lot of people, and marrying for love is still a fairly new concept. Obviously I’m excluding anything that would be morally reprehensible (child brides for example). If you view marriage as a way to secure assets, or maintain a tradition or ethnic group, arranged marriages are awesome. If you’ve got a western mindset, the absence of choice might be troubling for you. The rate of divorce in India, a place where arranged marriage is a cultural norm, are something like 1 out of 1000 marriages end in divorce so I wouldn’t want to dismiss the idea of arranged marriage completely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • EnglishRosiee · June 2, 2016

      Hey. Thanks for your comment.

      I read Aziz Ansari’s book and I also reviewed it for the blog. From what I remember it didn’t really delve into the issue of arranged marriage, as much as I would have liked – it was more about the pitfalls of dating today.

      I get what you are saying with regards to the stats. But do we really define success in relationships by lack of divorce. Previous generations would stay in relationships and be unhappy just to avoid shame, our generation is likely to divorce over an argument over who does the dishes. Divorce is more acceptable in some societies than others…but I don’t think increased rates reflect failure. Its hard for anyone to know what goes on behind closed doors.

      But the again, maybe the romantacised view of marriage is doomed for failure anyway.

      Arranged marriage is definitely something I want to explore more on this blog.

      Would love to have you comment on my latest piece as well : https://rinsebeforeuse.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/the-ego-boost-a-necessary-evil-or-a-recipe-for-disaster/

      Liked by 1 person

  5. bklynboy59 · June 3, 2016

    Coming from a culture where we get to pick and choose who we wish to marry, 50 percent of marriages will end up in divorce, maybe we shouldn’t be too quick to be so hard on arranged marriages, perhaps there is something to be said for someone else with more experience in life to be able to choose our marriage mate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • EnglishRosiee · June 7, 2016

      Yeah I do see your point. But at the end of the day relationships are far more complex and the success of them can’t be judged purely on divorce stats.

      Just because a marriage doesn’t end in divorce doesn’t mean its a model of happiness.We are never privy to what happens behind closed doors.

      I guess from a Western perspective, we see arranged marriage as sucking the romance out of a relationship. But then the other side would argue that our obsession with ‘romantic’ love hasn’t got us very far.

      While I think maybe we shouldn’t dismiss arranged marriage processes and instead sometimes draw on some of the processes to inform our dating decisions – i.e. looking for someone who has been brought up in a similar way to us and so has the same world view as us.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Vibha Shetiya · June 3, 2016

    Arranged marriages are an integral part of life on the sub-continent and so very woven into the fabric of that society. Honestly speaking, without actually experiencing the culture from within, it might be difficult to understand that such marriages are not as frightening as they may seem. In fact, I find the online dating scenario far more scary in that you never know who/ what kind of person you’ll end up meeting; traditionally speaking, in India, family and personal backgrounds are well researched into before both parties decide to “see” each other. Of course, the biggest problem with such arrangements is 1. do you, the individual in question, have a choice in the matter? A choice to say no, that is. 2. When it comes to arranged marriages, there is no concept of dating and getting to know each other. Decisions need to be made in a meeting or two. 3. Can you change your mind after the engagement without your reputation being “tarnished” (a problem that women mainly face even if the guy calls it off). THESE, I feel, are the biggest issues on hand.

    Liked by 1 person

    • EnglishRosiee · June 7, 2016

      Thanks for your comment and offering us some great insights into this complex topic.

      I do think the Western world dismisses arranged marriages and parental approval as archaic practices. I’ve been watching Downton Abbey – and you see that arranged marriage in some sense also existed in the upper class of western societies as well….but we look at those types of relationships a bit more romantically.

      Like

  7. Vibha Shetiya · June 3, 2016

    Hi EnglishRosiee,

    I tried sending you an email on the address you provided, but it bounced back 😦

    Like

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