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33 Reviews
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of Indentured Labourers' descendants
VS Naipaul's story of the struggle of a poor labourer's son growing up in early 19th century Trinidad is remarkable for its realism - something few people have pointed out, preferring instead to dwell on the oft mentioned tragi-comedy aspect of his writings. Those who come from similar backgrounds in the colonies will surely get the feeling of déjà-vu. For...
Published on 16 May 2005 by P. Nundlall

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Naipaul a disappointment
This was my first Naipaul and I was very disappointed. Like other reviewers, I failed to detect the humour- indeed, I found the book very depressing (I had difficulty forcing myself to finish it). Mr. Biswas has no depth or reality; nor does his wife or the horde of in-laws. I thought this was a rambling, overlong piece of self-indulgence.
Published on 17 April 2010 by Hugh Sedon


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4.0 out of 5 stars A house for Mr Biswas, 24 Oct 2013
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A classic - the novel that established Naipaul as a true master of the written word. The complex relationships within a Trinidad family of Asian origin.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not enthralled, 11 Sep 2013
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I was disappointed by this book. I found it very difficult to get into, although it got better as it went on. Having said that, i have to add that about a third of my book group loved it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars classic, 20 Jan 2013
classic book which will stay with you forever. mr biswas is an unforgettable character and his pursuit of self improvement material and spiritual is univesal
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not Naipaul's Best, 4 Jan 2013
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This review is from: A House For Mr Biswas (Paperback)
Read this after enjoying Miguel street but was disappointed overall. Overly long, unlikeable characters, not sure why this is considered a comic novel. But maybe that's just me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Testament to Hope, 24 May 2012
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After finally getting a copy of V. S. Naipaul's A House for Mr Biswas, it was not at all as I had expected - it was a hundred times better. The pure comedy with which the pathos is matched leaves you at once sad and uplifted. If ever there was a testament to the dignity of life and the power of hope, this is it. Be warned, there are aspects of what to most of us nowadays are unpalatable factors of a deeply patriarchal, diaspora culture, not least the many wife beatings and child floggings we are witness to. Yet we sense that Mohun (Mr Biswas) has an instinctive abhorence of such violence and we soon realise that in spite of his calling them his 'trap', he loves his wife and children, to the extent that he has devoted his life to a dream of acquiring a proper house for them all, away from the power-laden dependency on his in-laws, the Tulsis. This is a tale of survival and more, it is a testament to Hope, I thoroughly recommend it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An enigmatic classic, 29 Aug 2011
In A House for Mr Biswas, V.S.Naipaul takes relish in creating an unpromising protagonist and an utterly prosaic plot. There are no grand sweeps of history, this is not a novel of ideas and the author resolutely refuses to tie up all the threads in the final pages. Mr Biswas blunders into buying a succession of jerry-built homes, and, in spite of some talent as a writer, spends most of his time in fear of the sack from the newspaper where he is employed. Naipaul eschews tricks of story-telling; indeed events are humdrum, reflecting all the daily squabbles, rivalries and occasional triumphs of the extended Tulsi family, Indians living in Trinidad. Furthermore Naipaul declines to fill in the characters in the story. Why then is it so readable and why so comic - or as the blurb on the back says, tragi-comic? In part the story telling is captivating because of its unvarnished honesty. As in William Boyd's Any Human Heart, chance dictates much of the plot. The writing too is plain, nothing soaringly poetic, but irreducably concise prose. So a uncompromising book that throws down an implicit challenge to the reader. And Mr Biswas, for all that he may look like a loser, has something defiant about him and that's just enough to redeem him.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Indeed a masterpiece, 7 Mar 2011
This review is from: A House For Mr Biswas (Paperback)
There are a great number of excellent reviews of this book here; read them and you don't really need my interpretation. However I did want to add my voice to the praise for 'A house for Mr Biswas': it is indeed a masterpiece. It is the story, lightly and humourously told, of one family's struggle out of poverty, out of the darkness and traditions of some far flung outpost of the colonies and into the modernism of the twentieth century with all its dreams and ambitions of hope and prosperity. It is not a pretty story if one reads beyond Naipaul's gentle humour, for beneath that humour lurks the ever present terror of serious poverty: yet it is a warm and wonderful story told with great beauty and skill. I loved Mr Biswas, for in him I recognised so much of me.
Certainly one of the very best books I have ever read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Home sweet home....., 30 Nov 2010
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This review is from: A House For Mr Biswas (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this book, yes it was depressing in places and Mr Biswas is not a likable character, but somehow I wanted him to find his house and for him to live happily ever after. Maybe I was fed up with him moaning and arguing for the entire book and being jealous of other people's fortunes.
I liked the humour of the book, the bickering, the trying to outdo each other.... would definitely recommend it.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Am I missing something?, 11 Jan 2010
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Jonathan Davies (Ashbourne, Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A House For Mr Biswas (Paperback)
I chose to read this book because it is constantly referenced as a 20th century 'comedy' classic and also due to the glowing 5 star reviews on Amazon.

On the issue of this being a 'comedy' - well it is as long as you find humourous pleasure in a long description of one man's frustrated, miserable existence. I didn't. Biswas is not a likable character (petulant, petty, selfish, argumentative, etc) and neither are the majority of the characters in this book. He has a strange, mostly confrontational, relationship with his wife that is not really explored or explained and his children appear as an afterthought throughout the book.

He is constantly thwarted in his desire to have a place to call his own and I'm not sure what purpose this served - its neither blackly humourous or upliftingly allegorical. It's just depressing.

There is no doubt that it is well written and 'literary' but I am bemused as to its classic status.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Quite a difficult read, 26 July 2014
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This review is from: A House For Mr Biswas (Paperback)
A long, and at times, tedious novel. Not an easy read
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A House For Mr Biswas
A House For Mr Biswas by V. S. Naipaul (Paperback - 1 April 2011)
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