The Obscure Logic of the Heart is the story of Anil Mayur and Lina Merali who meet as students and fall in love. The problem is, Anil’s family are Sikhs and Lina’s are Muslims. It seems that almost everyone disapproves of their relationship: Anil’s parents are prepared to support their son but make it clear they’re not happy, Lina’s parents refuse to even consider allowing her to marry a non-Muslim, and Anil’s best friend Merc also has his own reasons for trying to split them up. And when Lina, who is beginning a career in the UN, starts to suspect that Anil’s father may be involved in illegal arms trading, she faces a battle not just with her parents but with her conscience too.
Interspersed with the main storyline are letters written by a woman to a man during the 1960s. At first this was confusing and I had no idea who or what I was reading about. Eventually, though, everything became clear and when I went back to re-read the letters again they made much more sense.
It took me a while to really get into this book, but as the author threw more and more obstacles into the way of Lina and Anil’s love, I became desperate to see how things would work out for them and whether they could overcome all their differences. Lina’s indecisiveness irritated me at times, but I could understand the difficulties and conflicting emotions she faced in trying to please both Anil and her parents. I thought Priya Basil did an excellent job of showing us the situation from a number of different perspectives so that at various points of the book we could sympathise in turn with Lina, Anil and both sets of parents. I particularly liked the parts told from the viewpoint of Shareef and Iman Merali, which helped me see why they were so reluctant to approve of their daughter’s relationship with Anil.
The variety of settings in which Priya Basil sets her story is another interesting aspect of the book. Anil’s family live in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, Lina’s family are from Birmingham in England, and there are other chapters set in London, New York and various parts of Sudan. I also found Lina’s work for the UN fascinating to read about. It gave the author a chance to incorporate lots of different political and human rights issues into the novel, including the illegal arms trade, the corruption of governments, guns and violence, poverty in Africa, and how people viewed Islam following the 9/11 attacks. There’s such a lot going on in this book; it’s much more than just a simple love story.
This is my second book for the Transworld Book Group reading challenge. It’s also the first book I’ve read by Priya Basil and I’m pleased to be able to say that I enjoyed my first experience of her work.