12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A sprawling comic tale of a small man's rebellion,
By A Customer
This review is from: A House for Mr. Biswas (Paperback)
Mr Biswas is an unlikely hero, dyspeptic, disappointed - and doomed. From page one, we know that he will die in his house on Sikkim Street aged 46, father of four children with a precise inventory of furniture around him and his Ford Prefect car on the lot outside.
The novel is a continuing reiteration of his need to find a job, transport, a house and a family. He has moments of success - when he writes his prose poem, when he is employed as a journalist and later as a welfare worker - but the novel is a sprawling account of his failures and his inability to deal with them. He is a man determined to rebel caught up in the domesticity and social system of his people. And the book is difficult to put down.
It is composed of a series of episodes which gradually move the plot forward through repetition of incidents, the insidious grasp of the Tulsi family and the economics of Trinidad. The Second World War and the rise of Communism are incidental to the action but woven into it. It is as if the same picture were being presented over and over with minute alterations which nonetheless define the progress of the narrative.
Even as a tiny baby, our hero is 'Mr Biswas', overshadowed by the predictions of a 'pundit' at his birth. He makes his discoveries and takes steps forward which are often false and deflate his ambitions but this is largely a comic tale written with skill and, despite its sprawl, encapsulated in the Prologue and Epilogue which act as a framing device.
Comparisons with other writers of Asian origin such as Salman Rushdie (Midnight's Children) and Vikram Seth (A Suitable Boy) are possible but the style also reflects the approach of Dickens and Anthony Burgess (eg Earthly Powers).
All in all, a good read leaving behind a rueful smile and a nod of recognition about the human condition.