Most helpful critical review
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Ok , but not overly gripping
on 15 March 2013
This is the first book I have read by RM,
I must say I was not overly impressed , there are lot of positives but overall I did not find it very gripping.
The story revolves around the life of a handful of Parsi Indians in the turbulent early 1970's , the main character being Gustad Noble who works in a bank . He lives with his wife and three kids , the eldest being Sohrab who refuses to join IIT inspite of Gustads hopes pinning on it. The second one is Darius and youngest is the daughter Roshan. But the focus remains on Gustad , some of his eccentric neighbours (like superstitious Kitpitia , Angry Casavji , feuding Mr Rabadi , a cripple called Tehmur Langda etc) and his few friends ( Major Bilimoria whos s working for RAW , Malcolm his childhood friend , Dinshoo who s his colleague).It touches on various aspects like superstition ,corrupt political system , father and son conflict, religiom, the day to day issues like prevalant sickness , contaminated water, the medicine system, treatment of a cripple (Tehmur) by the society, etc. The story builds across the day to day incident of neighborhoods,
In the beginning Gustad Noble is shown as an angry and unhappy common man who goes through lot of challenges and turmoil in his life ( which sees his son leaving the house, death of his friend Dinshoo then Bilimoria and in the end Tehmul's tragic death).At the end Gustad is clearly changed by the long journey he has taken.
Now although there are lot of characters in this story who have the potential to be very interesting because of thier idiosyncracies, one of my complains with the book is the characterization, I didnt feel connected with the characters and there is not enough portayal to let you delve into their personality or psyche which allows you to understand them .
While it portays the typical middle class in 70s , the focus remains on the negative side - there s so much of anger , frustration and helplessness depicted . The spirit of Mumbai (or India for that matter) where people accept the situation easily and manage to remain complacent inspite of all the harsh circumstances ranging from contaminated water, adulterated milk or corrupt political system is not captured . Infact none of the character seems happy except for Roshan and Tehmur, at times.
Similarly i feel it does not do proper justice to the feel of the typical neighborhood in those times ,where neighbors would forge the friendship inspite of the daily tiffs and petty quarrels . Where they would still pretend to be close like a family while continue to be jealous and hold their past grudges . I found that there was a good opportunity to focus or explore on this love-hate relationship between the neighbors , which was missed.
There are lot of unneccesarry controversial references to Shiv Sena & Indira Gandhi etc. Not sure if they have added any relevance to the story,,They could have been easily avoided as they do not add anything to the story.
Though there is lot of attention to details and you get a pretty good undertsanding of day to day issues of common man in 1970s , Overall i found the pace to be v slow and not very gripping. It was a long journey indeed.