BOOK CLUB: The Matchmaker

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“The Matchmaker” by Saman Shad is a novel that sits between genres; like its’ characters, caught between cultures, it doesn’t quite belong anywhere but creates something special out of the mixture.

Not quite a romance, not quite a relationship novel, and not quite a literary novel, this hovers between the three to provide an absorbing read. It has the light touch you’d expect from a romance, the thoughtful exploration you’d want from a relationship novel, and the consideration of different cultures that might be offered by a literary novel. I enjoyed it a great deal.

In Sydney, there’s a thriving desi community, but there are challenges. Older members of the community tend to cling tight to the traditions brought from countries like Pakistan, especially around relationships. Younger members of the community are more likely to adopt the modern mores of Australian society, but find themselves dragged back to tradition by family and community pressure when it comes to marriage.

Saima finds herself squarely in the middle of this clash. She’s had enormous success as a matchmaker and has many satisfied customers. However, now negative gossip is causing her problems. She’s too modern, too focused on love matches and compatibility rather than class and economic position. Her business is beginning to struggle.

Then a possible solution shows up unexpectedly.  A wealthy couple comes to arrange a match for their son – nothing unusual there. But they want  Saima to manoeuvre their son into accepting her services without telling him his parents are paying for it.

Saima has doubts about the wisdom of this strategy, but she needs the money, and the good recommendations that could follow. And Kal looks like he’ll be easy to match: handsome, successful, wealthy, and from a respected family, most would consider him a catch. So she agrees to try it.

Both Saima and Kal have frustrations with the clash between the culture of their birth, the one they’ve been raised in, and the one they now live in as adults. 

The novel balances humor and serious moments very successfully. It’s the kind of humor you’ll probably recognise from your own life: slightly snarky comments from friends, the easy laughter that you share with people you know well. 

I feel that I should note that I’m not from a desi background. I’m hesitant therefore to say much about the depiction of the desi community. However, I thought there was a lot of warmth and affection in it, along with some exasperation. As an outsider, I appreciated a glimpse of the traditions and motivations of this community and its members.

The novel explores the challenges of different cultural demands, and how not to lose the good while trying to move away from the less helpful. Many people will empathise with this – not everyone may experience the same cultural clash, but parental pressure and expectations that don’t match yours are pretty common. This is handled with empathy for all parties and a particular understanding of the pressure it puts on the younger generation.

Similarly, the general tone of many of the dilemmas Saima and Kal face will be familiar to many readers: the difficulty of navigating relationships, of financial challenges, and of career uncertainties. Although “The Matchmaker” might have particular resonance for those facing a similar cultural clash, readers from all communities and backgrounds are likely to see a part of themselves in it.

Romance readers will enjoy this, but so will many other readers. There’s a light touch and a romantic plot that takes centre stage, but the novel has a great deal to say beyond that. There’s a lot of depth to this, and an interestingly original slant in the insight into the desi community.

Copy courtesy of Penguin Books (2023)

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading The Matchmaker by Saman Shad. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

8 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Matchmaker

  1. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read The Matchmaker by Saman Shad. I have to declare up front that I found the Matchmaker to be a delightful book to read.

    The story in many ways is a conventional romance – girl mets boy, girl and boy really dont get along, boy and girl realise that they do get along and like each other….romance ensues.

    The difference with The Matchmaker is the detail that the author provides on life in the desi (people from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) community, which has a strong expectation that community members will marry other people from within the community and arranged marriages are a quite a normal/everyday event, even at the present time.

    Saima is unusual in her community in that she is a young single matchmaker and she believes in matching people who would suit each other, not just considering their social status as a major influence. She also believes in allowing them time to ensure that they are really suited to marriage. This puts her at odds with many in the desi community.

    Her random meeting with Kal and then an approach from his rich parents for her to match him with a suitable desi girl (for which they pay her) throws a curve ball.

    The story of how their relationship develops is interesting and touching. I felt I learnt a great deal about the desi community and arranged marriages from reading The Matchmaker.

    All in all an interesting and engrossing book (and I learnt something!) – would recomend this if you are looking for something a bit different.

    Thanks again!

  2. Thank you for this book reading opportunity.

    The Matchmaker is like a fun colourful Bollywood movie. It was nice and pleasant to read. There’s romance and comedy.

    It was good reading about North Indian culture and traditions.

    The book was an easy and relaxing read and would be good to take away on holidays to relax and chill with. It’s a good way to learn about Indian traditions in our modern times.

  3. Taking her job very seriously, Saima is the protagonist who takes pleasure in helping her clients find their romantic and life-long partners. She is a matchmaker in the Pakistani community in Sydney but when they start questioning her methods as being too modern and not traditional enough, her business starts to suffer.

    Additionally, she is intent on helping others find love and is not interested in love for herself but what happens when someone comes along who seems to be just right for her?

    With an insight into the desi community, The Matchmaker by Saman Shad is an entertaining fictional romance that was such a delight to read. The characters are fresh, interesting and easy to get to know. This is a cute story that I recommend to others, especially to lovers of romantic comedy.

    Thank you Beauty and Lace and Penguin Books for the opportunity to read and review this enjoyable and easy to read novel.

  4. Many thanks to Beauty and Lace and Penguin Books for my copy to read and review. Also thanks to Saman Shad for writing this enjoyable novel.

    I loved it from the start. Saima was a lovable matchmaker, so busy trying to find love matches for everyone else that she simply didn’t bother looking for herself. Dealing with parents of her clients with high expectations and traditional ways. She does a great job and has many success stories until the small Desi community turn against her for her modern match making. That is when her business starts to go downhill.

    I found all the other characters in this book played an important role. The story flowed well and was easy to read and follow. Filled with comedy, romance and friendships throughout. I love a good romance and this one hit the spot.

    I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a light read to get lost in.

  5. Thanks Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read The Matchmaker by Saman Shad – it was a great story of how cultures and gossip collide in modern Sydney. Saima is a matchmaker in her desi community and when Kal’s parents come to her unbeknown to Kal to find him a match all sorts of issues happen including the matchmaker and Kal falling for each other and the problems that ensue with his family.
    I really enjoyed reading about the cultural aspect and what it is like to be a third culture kid.

  6. This wonderful book had me enthralled from the irst to the last page.
    The wondeful deriptions of the clothing, the food, and use of the Pakistani language in places, made for a story which litterally popped from the pages, and made it so easy to visualise whtat the writer was describing.
    2 thirty something are navigating their way through life in Australia, and though they are both very modern and living the Australian way, their families are very traditional, and still expect their offspring to live according to the traditions of their roots, even as far as arranged marriages!
    It is a heartwarming story. Girl meets boy. Boy and girl find each other irritating, yet both are aware of a ‘spark’ between them. Their romance could have taken off without a hitch, if it wasn’t for the interference of the very traditional parents. Fortunately, conrontations ensue, and after amny issues along the way, love did conquer all! I highly recommend to anyone wanting a colourful story, which is easy to read, easy to get totally lost in, and smile at the end.
    Thank you Saman Shad for a fabulous story, to Beauty & Lace, and Penguin Random House, for the opportunity to read and review this delighful stroy, The Matchmaker

  7. Thank you for the opportunity to read The Matchmaker. I found the story colourful and full of life, much like I imagine a desi wedding to be.

    I really enjoyed learning of the desi culture, it was a lifestyle foreign to me but thanks to the great writing I was able to get a glimpse into the everyday lives.

    The meet-cute at the start of the story paved the way well for a rom-com that had me both smiling and sympathising with the main characters.

    The story progressed well and the interactions helped build the characters into real people.

    The ending, while predicted, was a lovely way to end the story.

    My one criticism , is that while the cultural terminology and language added to the feel of the story, they did make my reading disjointed as I had to keep googling answers. A small glossary at the end would really have helped.

    This was definitely a story I enjoyed, and one that I imagine my friend would enjoy too.

  8. Saman Shad has written an interesting debut novel set around the Desi community of Sydney.

    Saima is a matchmaker for her community. She is not who you would imagine as a matchmaker. Saima is in her early 30’s and matches couples by compatibility not class, occupation or social standing. many of the elders in the community disagree with her views but her results show in the number of wedding invitations on her notice board.

    I found this book really hard to get through. Besides the scene where Saima jumps into Kal’s car thinking it was an Uber, I didn’t find the story funny. It’s touted as RomCom and really,there wasn’t much romance either.

    I would have liked more about the Desi community but all I got was a whole lot of characters who didn’t like each other much. It was like a big family drama.
    Maybe this book would appeal more to readers in their 20’s or 30’s. It wasn’t for me!

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