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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 10 March 2017
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 September 2009
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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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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on 20 February 2015
good condition
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on 19 June 2017
Front cover damaged and fading around page edges.
Very quick delivery.
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An outstanding novel set in a Zoroastrian family in Bombay. When elderly Nariman, suffering from Parkinson's disease and a broken ankle becomes too much to cope with, his stepchildren offload him onto their stepsister. Living in a tiny flat with two children, a somewhat grudging husband and little money, things become difficult and her husband hatches a convoluted plan to get a promotion and a payrise...
Meanwhile Nariman's stepdaughter is looking for a ploy to avoid having him back once his ankle mends...
A beautiful book that really just encapsulates life: exquisite moments, change, tragedy, things not working out as intended, humour and how experiences can alter a person.
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on 6 June 2012
Mistry is a marvellous writer. He is a master story-teller and has the gift of associating you with his characters, as though they were members of your family. When I read "A Fine Balance", I found it most disturbing, as I had become close to the four main characters. "Family Matters" has the same effect.
It is necessary to explain the family structure to convey the feel of the book. The main characters are Parsi. The patriarch is Nariman, 79-years old, suffering from Parkinsons and frail. He entered into an arranged marriage, when he was 42, to a widow, Yasmin, who already had a son and daughter, Jal and Coomy, and they then had a daughter Roxana.
Nariman had wanted to marry Lucy, a Goan Christian, but both families objected. Lucy continued to pursue Nariman after he had married, with tragic consequences for both Yasmin and herself. Coomy blamed her step-father for this outcome and would not forgive him.
Roxanna is married to Yezad and they have two sons, Murad and Jehangir, 13 and 9 at the beginning of the story.
Nariman lives with Coomy and Jal in a seven-room dilapidated flat (which Nariman has given them), while Roxana and her family live in a tiny two-roomed flat, bought for them by Nariman as a wedding present.
Only Yezad works and they are all poor.
When Nariman breaks his ankle and becomes bed-ridden, Coomy does not want to continue to look after him, persuading Roxana to take him in as a short-term measure, which Coomy then conspires to make permanent.
The author records the growth of love and affection over the ensuing months. Particularly touching is the love between Jehangir and his grand-father, the kindness of a neighbour, Daisy, playing her violin to an ailing, then dying, Nariman and Yezad, moved by his renewed faith and the realisation that the elderly need love and compassion, shaving, cutting the nails of and administering the bedpan to Nariman- deeds he had previously steadfastly avoided.
The author makes you worry about both Yezad's gambling and his plotting promotion- you know they will go wrong, as will Jehangir's venture into "crime".
This very good book is not without its flaws. The last part, written for some reason in the first person, I found unsatisfactory. But the real problem is that Mistry does not "do happy" -Shades of "A Fine Balance" all over again. Violent deaths abound, Yezad becomes a religious zealot and the possible romance between Jal and Daisy does not come about. Instead, Jal, having been the inspiration for the improvement in the family's living and financial position, is now virtually confined to his room by Yezad's religious extremism.
At the very end of the book Roxana asks Jehangir "Aren't you happy?". I would have replied "definately not"; as Jehangir says himself, whatever happened to his father's joy and humour?
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As Mistry makes clear in this novel, the one important story is "of youth, and loss, and yearning for redemption...Just the details are different." With these themes as the bedrock of his story, he depicts the world of a multigenerational Parsi family in Bombay, their world changed forever when Nariman Vakeel, a 79-year-old former professor and sufferer from Parkinson’s disease, falls and breaks his leg, effectively ending any possibility of an independent life. His stepchildren, Coomy and Jal, quickly dump Nariman in the two-room apartment of their younger half-sister, Roxana Chenoy, her husband Yezad, and two sons, supposedly for only three weeks, while his leg heals. Beset with financial problems, lack of space, and resentment of Coomy and Jal, who remain in their father’s 7-room apartment, the family does its best, but tensions rise and slowly erode their relationships, precipitating a number of personal crises for each family member.
Concentrating more on the world writ small than on the broader, more expansive views of A Fine Balance, Mistry creates a number of vibrant and fully drawn characters. Nariman Vakeel, recalling his dreams and disappointments, his 11-year love for Lucy Braganza, and his disastrous arranged marriage, is touching in his neediness and in his apologetic helplessness. His grandchildren delight in his stories and seek ways to help; Roxana makes do in every way possible, tending to his most personal needs; and Yezad, frustrated by the lack of financial support from Coomy and Jal and a job in which he is underpaid, feels jealous of the old man’s claims on Roxana. Mistry’s dialogue, the subtle and not-so-subtle undercurrents it reflects, the often humorous interactions, the honest but naïve motivations of some of the characters, and the meticulously depicted and subtle decline of the family are the work of a master.
The one jarring note for me was the use of Shiv Sena, a fanatic political/religious group as a motif thoughout the novel, their threats, extortion, violence, and fundamentalist rhetoric intruding periodically (and often dramatically) on the lives of the characters. While this obviously broadens the scope of the novel and offers a context in which to evaluate Coomy’s religiosity, the fears of small businessmen like Yezad and his boss, and Yezad’s eventual conflicts with one of his sons, it felt contrived to me, too strong and too obvious in what is otherwise a novel of more subtle interactions. Mary Whipple
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VINE VOICEon 9 July 2011
I read A Fine Balance a while ago, Family Matters was certainly another great book, but quite up to the same level as Mistry's other book. I still look forward to reading his others though.
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on 27 February 2010
I recently read this book, and have read about half a dozen other books since I finished it, and I can still remember all the characters and their names. For me this is the sign of a great writer, to make me care so much that I still ruminate on the story. It is written in an easy style, and I almost feel like I spent the time in Bombay.
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