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57 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on 15 April 2005
This is the second Rohinton Mistry novel I have read ( also Family Matters) and I cannot recommend them too highly. In this novel ( which is about a bank clerk and his family; the doctor mentioned in the above synopsis is a minor character.)Mistry creates a group of characters and describes their interaction in an absorbing and convincing way. In some ways this is like a traditional 19th century English novel of family life, though set in India in the 1970s. When I read 'Family Matters', I had never been to India, but Mistry's descriptions enabled me to visualise it in a way few previous 'Indian' novels I had read had succeeded in doing. 'Such a long journey' I read during my first visit to India and I can now vouch for its authenticity and humour. The novel however is no travelogue; the characters are interesting because of their human nature. The ending was genuinely moving. A great writer.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 13 November 2002
Though lacking the dramatic power and the pessimistic philosophy of his later masterpiece 'A fine balance', 'Such a long journey' is a wonderful, extremely compassionate account of a family's struggle to maintain unity and moral integrity in the face of extraordinary circumstances: both external (the Emergency) and internal (father-son conflicts, disease etc.).
The political agenda in this novel is much reduced compared to Mistry's later work, and that perhaps renders 'Such a long journey' a less pressing and controversial book, removing some of the urgency and the vigour to concentrate instead on a very human (and universal) 'journey', which eventually leads to a very human (and universal) catharsis.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I rate it as highly as 'A fine balance' and perhaps higher that the latest, somewhat disappointing (to me!) 'Family matters'.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 April 2009
Rohinton Mistry is a wonderful writer and 'Such a Long Journey' is another great example of his skill. Mistry creates characters that the reader can truly love and empathise with - we can see ourselves and those we know in all of his characters, and as a result we care about them and believe in them. I'd go as far as to say he is the best author around when it comes to characterisation.

The hero of 'Such a Long Journey' is Gustad Noble, a hardworking family man trying to make ends meet. In trying to help an old friend, he finds himself caught up in frightening events far beyond his normal unremarkable existence, whilst simultaneously his peaceful home life is shattered by a quarrel with his son and illness in his daughter.

Mistry relates the minutae of daily domestic life in a way that is absorbing and fascinating. The reader shares in every concern of the family and longs to participate actively in their lives. It's perfectly paced and surprisingly gripping, without ever being unrealistic. Even though it is set in a country I have never visited, in an era before I was born, and the characters are from a different faith to me, it honestly doesn't matter at all. Mistry finds the humanity that is common to us and as such writes in a way that truly transcends all cultural, temporal and geographical divides.

A superb book by a writer who deserves wider recognition.
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57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
Sometimes compared to Dickens or Victor Hugo for the strength of his descriptions, Rohinton Mistry uses "ordinary" men and women as his protagonists and fills his novels with the sights, sounds, smells, and color of India. Depicting his characters as neither saints nor sinners, he involves the reader in their lives as they try to survive the complexities of their culture.
In this novel, Gustad Noble and his wife Dilnavaz, living in a congested apartment building in Bombay, try to lead good lives and inspire their children during Indira Gandhi's rule in the 1970s, with all its political, professional, and social upheaval. India is on the verge of war with the Muslims of Pakistan, and though Gustad, a Parsi, is aware of political chicanery, he is far more pre-occupied with having his son accepted at a school of technology, doing his job as a bank supervisor, and supporting his family. Constant blackouts and continually deteriorating conditions on the street add to the frustrations of Gustad's life.
Then Jimmy Bilimoria, an old friend, asks Gustad for help, claiming that he is training freedom fighters in Bangladesh to act on behalf of the Indian government against Pakistani "butchers." Gustad reluctantly agrees to use his position at the bank to deposit money to a secret account, but he soon finds himself enmeshed in a spiral from which he cannot break out, his life turned upside down.
Throughout the novel, the wall outside Gustad's apartment building symbolizes the larger world of Bombay and parallels some aspects of Gustad's own life. At the outset, it is used as a latrine, breeding illness in the neighborhood but keeping the noise and tumult of the street out of the apartment house. When Gustad persuades a sidewalk artist to paint it, he depicts scenes from all the religions of India, and the wall becomes a shrine--until the government decides to widen the road and tear it down. Gustad's personal crisis and the fate of the wall intersect in a conclusion both moving and profound.
Though this novel lacks the grand scale of A Fine Balance, it is a beautifully constructed and emotionally involving story of a small family trying to live meaningful lives against almost overwhelming odds. The characters are finely drawn, and the plot, though not "exciting," reflects the traumas of an ordinary man and his wife caught up in events and crises not of their own making. Wry and often humorous in its observations of people and circumstances, this early novel by Mistry has all the ingredients which make his later novels so memorable. Mary Whipple
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 26 January 2012
Having read 'A Fine Balance' a fair while ago and still talking about it today as the best book I've ever read, I was very excited to see another book by the same author. This was magnified by the fact that my delightful Dad had just bought me a Kindle for Christmas and I could enjoy the book on this marvel of modern technology!

Now then... about the book! It's incredibly well written, possibly too well for me as I had to look up the meaning of a huge number of words; I thought my English was pretty spot on 'til I read this book! On top of this there's smatterings of Hindi which adds to the atmosphere being set but was often incomprehensible to me despite having travelled all over India. However, there was never a point where I didn't know what was going on and it barely detracted from my enjoyment of the book. The characters and scenes are incredibly well described; this seems to be Mr Mistry's true forte. The personalities, opinions and attitudes portrayed in this book are very typical of Indian society. The story line was good, perhaps a little slow moving for me. It feels rude to take anything away from this book but I think 'A Fine Balance' was a much more interesting and powerful story; no book has ever clawed at my emotions so effectively. If you're only going to read one of Mr Mistry's books I'd recommend you read that one.

Thanks for giving me so many hours of entertainment.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Gustad Noble lives a frugal life as a bank worker in Bombay. It is the 1970s and India is ruled by Indira Ghandi and the Congress Party. He has a wife Dilnavaz, sons Sohrab and Darius and daughter Roshan. They are a loving Parsee family but from the outset his precarious life seems to be on the verge of collapse. His young daughter is ill and his son Sohrab is refusing to go to college. They live in a crowded apartment block with fractious neighbours and every day they face powers cuts, food rationing, a shortage of medicines and low level corruption.

Then an old friend begs a favour from him. He claims to be involved in secret government work and says he wants to help the oppressed Bengalis. Gustad (who is naïve and trusting) picks up a parcel with a large amount of money to be deposited in a bank account. This is an illegal act but once Gustad is involved he sees no way out.

The bitter-sweet struggle of life in Bombay is well portrayed and despite all the setbacks and disappointments it is ultimately an uplifting story of good people in a harsh world. Such a Long Journey does not have the great sweep of time and place of A Fine Balance but in its own way is just as good.

A great read from a great writer.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 22 April 2004
Such a Long Journey is the first book I have had the pleasure of readingby Mistry and it has been a wonderful experience from start to finish! The culture and traditions are so alive in the book that they seem to jumpout at you and teach you something about life in India as a whole. A mostcaptivating book that I will definitely be reading again and again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 25 April 2012
I read (and reviewed) A Fine Balance and thought it fantastic. On the strength of that I read this.

Another great book. Not quite as 'big' and rich as AFB but still a wonderful depiction of a man's life in India, and his passage through the difficulties he encounters. Like AFB there are moments of happiness, and depictions of very real (and flawed) relationships which don't always go smoothly but which show great love and affection. The device of 'the wall' which other reviews detail is a nice piece of optimism (as well as symbolism). Small things can change lives.

The book like AFB is pretty bleak, and bad stuff happens. I like the fact that his characters like we all do, get swept along in a flow upon which they have little influence and make the best of their lot.

I don't know what to think of the endings. Are they a masterpiece that leave you wanting more? Or are they a bit sudden, brutal and unsatisfying?

I intend to read everything this guy writes - I love it.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 20 October 2000
Notes on "Such a Long Journey" Gustad Noble is a quiet family man, living in the Khodadad apartment buildings in the bustling Indian city of Bombay in the 1970's. He is a devout Parsi, and tries to live by the rules of his faith .and is well respected by the tenants of the flats,, but suddenly his orderly world begins to disintegrate. His elder son, Sohrab refuses to go to the college for which he has been offered a place, his small daughter, Roshan, falls sick with a mysterious illness, and a letter from a friend ( Major Bilimoria ) whom he hasn't seen in ages leads him to participate in a clandestine money laundering scam. The background to all this personal turmoil is the teeming city of Bombay, a termite's nest of perpetual motion, full of weird and wonderful characters, decaying streets and dilapidated buildings. The main thread of the story, and the reason Gustad becomes involved in the money transfers is the intense political crisis, where not for the first time, India and Pakistan are at loggerheads and on the brink of war over East Pakistan, which because of the conflict is destined to become Bangladesh. Mistry meshes all these situations together beautifully and in addition gives a long overdue insight into Parsi life, Gustad emerges as the epitome of a good Parsi: caring, philanthropic, loyal and generous. It is clear his family in his grandfather's day, under the British, was affluent, but circumstances have deteriorated. He works for a modest salary in the bank and has to put up with the inadequacies of a city apartment, in which the services and utilities are unreliable, but he does not seem resentful., despite the odd assortment of neighbours in the block. Despite his personal family problems, Gustad is bound by loyalty to his friends and complies with their requests against his better judgement. He has his doubts about the course he is taking, but in the end , his loyalty is justified. Gustad's wife Dilnavez, from whom he hides nothing, has her own way of dealing with the family crisis and is very much under the influence of Miss Kutpitia and her spells and potions. in the hope of alleviating their misfortunes. (which in the end do actually seem to work!!) There are numerous well drawn characters and incidents in the book, which bring out the humour in Mistry's writing. and there are also many incidents of Gustad's caring qualities to the people around him. eg. the pavement artist; Telum and the beggar children. I found the funeral scenes particularly moving. It is perhaps, to Western eyes a somewhat gruesome and barbaric way of disposing of the dead, but the "Towers of Silence" have been a part of Parsi / Zoroastrian culture for centuries and Mistry explains the ritual very sympathetically The book is an interesting insight into the ancient beliefs of the dwindling Parsi communities and also a well observed critical comment on the political situation on the sub continent in the 1970's Mistry threads a .subtle allegory into the story to make a telling comment on human nature. "The Wall" of the compound, used as a stinking urinal, attracting flies and mosquitoes, to say nothing of the stench, is transformed into a sweet smelling shrine when Gustad. invites the pavement artist to make use of the black expanse of wall. He draws pictures of deities from all religions and the people unite as one when the council arrive to pull down the wall, thus illustrating that the ordinary citizens have learned to live with and tolerate each other's differences, whereas those involved in high level, high profile, propaganda politics are beyond reconciliation. Needless to say, the council knocks down the wall. A well written, often humorous, book, of one man's ability to cope with a multitude of problems, which suddenly disrupt his ordinary life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2009
This is a good read from a talented author, although not quite in the same league as A Fine Balance. In comparison it is more easygoing, without Balance's total immersion in poverty and tragedy. For some, that may be no bad thing.

It still paints a colourful picture of Bombay life and of local customs. The Tower of Silence, with its vultures, will be a lasting image for me. The central character Gustad is well crafted; a good man but flawed enough to be believable. The secondary characters are all interesting, as is the historical background of tensions between India and Pakistan.

This is my third Rohinton Mistry book and I would recommend him strongly to any new readers.
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