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Family Matters [Hardcover]

Rohinton Mistry
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Book Description

8 April 2002
Family Matters takes us to Bombay in the mid-1990s. Nariman Vakeel is a seventy-nine-year-old Parsi widower and the patriarch of a small discordant family. Beset by Parkinson’s disease and haunted by memories of the past, he lives in a once-elegant apartment with his two middle-aged stepchildren - Coomy, bitter and domineering, and her brother, Jal, mild-mannered and acquiescent. When Nariman’s illness is compounded by a broken ankle, Coomy plots to turn his round-the-clock care over to Roxana, his sweet-tempered sister. She succeeds, but not without cost, and eventually Nariman takes up residence with Roxana, her husband, Yezad, and their two young sons. The effect of the new responsibility on Yezad, who is already besieged by financial worries, pushes him into a scheme of deception involving Vikram Kapur, his eccentric, often exasperating employer at Bombay Sporting Goods Emporium. This sets in motion a series of events - a great unravelling and a revelation of the family’s love-torn past - that leads to the narrative’s final outcome. In this wise and compassionate novel, Mistry has once again created a beautifully realized world. As his unforgettable characters confront situations over which they have no control, their tragedies and their triumphs ultimately become our own. Family Matters has all the richness, the gentle humour, and the narrative sweep that have earned Rohinton Mistry the highest of accolades around the world. It is a stunning achievement from one of the finest writers of our time.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; First edition edition (8 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571194273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571194278
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 688,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rohinton Mistry was born in 1952 and grew up in Bombay, India, where he also attended university. In 1975 he emigrated to Canada, where he began a course in English and Philosophy at the University of Toronto.He is the author of three novels and one collection of short stories. His debut novel, Such a Long Journey (1991), won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book and the Governor General's Award, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It was made into an acclaimed feature film in 1998. His second novel, A Fine Balance (1995), won many prestigious awards, including the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction and the Giller Prize, as well as being shortlisted for the Booker Prize, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize. His collection of short stories, Tales from Firozsha Baag, was published in 1987.In 2002 Faber published Mistry's third novel, Family Matters, which was longlisted for the 2002 Man Booker Prize.

Product Description

Amazon Review

As an epigraph to his humane and generous novel Family Matters, Rohinton Mistry uses a reverse version of Tolstoy's words from Anna Karenina--"Each happy family is happy in its own way, but all unhappy families resemble one another". The unhappy family in this book belongs to Nariman Vakeel, an elderly, retired English teacher in Bombay. His stepson Jal and stepdaughter Coomy look after the old man, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, but a street accident renders him even more in need of help. Resentfully Jal and Coomy provide it but, when opportunity offers, they deliver Nariman into the care (and flat) of his daughter Roxana, the much-loved offspring of what was an otherwise loveless marriage. Roxana is married with two children and lives in cramped conditions that the arrival of the now bed-ridden old man makes worse. The tensions of the present and rankling discontents from the past collide as Mistry's narrative unfolds. At the heart of the story is the literal claustrophobia of the flat and the metaphorical claustrophobia of a family bound tightly together by the deeply ambivalent emotions of its members but Family Matters is not a limited or restricted novel.

Through the stories of Roxana's husband Yezad and her sons Murad and Jehangir, Mistry opens the book to lives outside the family. Characters like Yezad's ebullient employer Mr Kapur, the eager but incompetent handyman Edul Munshi, the violinist Daisy Ichhaporia and others provide a keen sense of the wider world of Bombay in which the family dramas are secretively played out. What best emerges from the novel is Mistry's compassionate sense of the frustrations, temptations and everyday sufferings life imposes on all his characters. All, in the end, resemble one another in the accommodations and compromises they are obliged to make. --Nick Rennison

Review

An intricate story of domestic conflict set against modern-day Bombay. This is a beautifully realised world with all too human characters.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book! 13 Jan 2005
Format:Hardcover
I adored this book about an Indian family, with a sad past, living in Bombay (Mumbai). Roxana's ageing father, Nariman, comes to live with the family in their tiny flat. He has Parkinsons, has broken his leg and is unable to move and requires full caring which Roxana is happy to provide. However, her husband Yezad resents his presence in the flat. He also has money worries which later lead him to folly.
The book deals with the caste system, as well as getting old in a really touching way. There is a wonderful passage which moved me to tears when Yezad sets aside his mixed feelings of resentment and respect, and cuts Narimans fingernails, toenails and shaves him. How very true when Yezad is pondering sickness in old age "....But in the end all human beings became candidates for compassion, all of us, without exeption..... and if we could recognise this from the start what a saving in pain and grief and misery."
I cannot recommend this book highly enough, it is written really tenderly but there is also humour and you cannot help but feel anguish for the characters, who, with Mistry's beautiful writing, are real and touchable.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A clever title 10 Mar 2005
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Painted on a much smaller canvas than his earlier novels (Such a Long Journey; A Fine Balance; Tales from the Firozshah Baag), it is a wonderful as the others. It focuses on one family and revolves round the care of the 79 year old patriarch who is crippled and afflicted with progressive Parkinsonism. Though there are some mean-spirited characters in the novel, the affection of others is very touching. The love of the nine year old boy for his grandfather is especially heart-warming. Mistry has the gift of bringing sheer unforced goodness to life like no other writer.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A certain schoolbook simplicity 17 Sep 2009
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This book gives insight into life in Bombay for a struggling young family - and the privations and problems of being old in that society too. There is warmth and a kind of innocence in the way the stories unfold, giving a skilfully woven picture of a whole layer of society - its tragedies and comedies, its sadness and joy.

It's a very long book in which much happens to not very much effect, and there is a certain schoolbook simplicity in the way people are portrayed that made me rather impatient to get to the end. This book is not a patch on his later novel A Fine Balance. For true Mistry magic, read that one.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautful, Mournful and Truthful 12 July 2010
Format:Paperback
This wonderfully well written book is about an elderly Parsi gentleman, Nariman, and his family, who all live in Bombay. Nariman suffers from Parkinson's disease, and when he breaks his ankle when out walking, he is almost totally incapacitated. This puts a lot of strain on his family. At first his two step children take care of him, but his step daughter in particular harbours a lot of resentment towards him because of what happened between her mother and him. She thinks up a plan to push Nariman on to his biological daughter, Roxana. But Roxana has two young sons to care for, and money is short. These worries fill her whole family's heads, till her husband Yezad is driven to make a terrible mistake.

Mistry perfectly captures the complex relationships between elderly parents and their grown up children. Yes, there is love, but there is also resentment at having to look after someone who always used to cope on their own, and on top of that there are sometimes mixed feelings about events from the past. And when money becomes an issue, even younger members of the family become so aware of the tension that they feel compelled to try and help out, not always wisely.

'Family Matters' also deals with the issue of the younger generation's feelings about religion and cultural identity. This is particularly important within the Parsi community, as their population (within India at least) is on the decline. Older members of the community are sometimes very insistent that their children marry within the community, whilst often these children are a more Western-looking generation and are not always so interested in preserving religion or tradition - they just want the freedom to love and marry whoever they want.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A master of the written word 24 July 2002
Format:Hardcover
In one of the chapters of this book, there is a description of the letter-writer, the owner of a bookstore who sits on the sidewalk, writing (and reading) letters for people who cannot read or write. Mistry's description of the joy that the written word can bring into peoples' lives stands out as one of the many jewels in this treasure chest of a book.
Other jewels are the old man Nariman's relationship with his grandson, Jehangir, which grows more and more precious as he becomes a bed-ridden fixture in their living room, holding Jehangir's hand at night when their nightmares haunt them. Nariman's returning memories of the love of his life, which was cut short by his marriage to a suitable woman. The lives of his stepchildren, and their feelings about him. The relationship between Nariman and his daughter, Roxana, and her relationship with her husband. They are all described with a most exquisite choice of words and the eyes of a gentle observer.
Rohinton Mistry is indeed a master storyteller, and I pity those who have not discovered his wonderful books!!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Family Matters By Rohinton Mistry
FAMILY MATTERS BY ROHINTON MISTRY

Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry is a very engaging read. Read more
Published 26 days ago by The Mother Booker
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of the human heart
There was a point, about a dozen or so pages into the story, when I nearly gave up on this book. The writing was accomplished, witty, even profoundly beautiful at times, but I... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Laszlo Kovacs
5.0 out of 5 stars Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry
This book was second hand but arrived in good condition as described.
The book is proving to be another absorbing read by this author.
Published 3 months ago by E. Ruth Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Family Matters
A wonderful book, I couldn't put it down. Highly recommended. The characters are so real and the events are easy to identify with and imagine. The language, as ever, is beautiful.
Published 6 months ago by linda walker
5.0 out of 5 stars Good condition great service
Book was fine, great story about the struggles of an Indian family. Brilliantly written by the wonderful Rohinton Mistry. Great
Published 8 months ago by carol lamerick
4.0 out of 5 stars Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry
It is an interesting story of Parsi Life in India to compare with " to A suitable boy," which is the story of the Hindu community perhaps there is for my liking a bit too... Read more
Published 8 months ago by V.G.Smith-Maurer
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good read
Enjoyed the book very much once I got into it - the beginning was a little off putting as I thought that this was the going to be the entire focus! Read more
Published 11 months ago by Professor Rosemary Crow
5.0 out of 5 stars Book review
Really enjoyed this story of living in hard times and having to contend with members of the family with difficulties
Published 13 months ago by Ann Pettie
3.0 out of 5 stars OK, but not enthralling
I read this as part of a book club, I had to push myself to complete the book, it was OK, but not one that I would have chosen to read.
Published 13 months ago by Elizabeth Jayne Gilbert
4.0 out of 5 stars Family Matters
Bought this because I love his other book, the name escapes me now. I did enjoy it - again excellent characterisation and an interesting representation of Mumbai.
Published 14 months ago by RosieT
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