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Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry

Such a Long Journey (1991)

by Rohinton Mistry

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A complex, fascinating family story with layered examinations of political corruption, violence, betrayals, scapegoating and more. I particularly enjoyed learning a bit more about life for India's Parsi minority, and thought this novel, written in the early 1990s about the early 1970s, was somewhat prescient in referencing the rise of Hindu nationalism in India. I intend to read all of Mistry's novels. ( )
  nmele | Nov 7, 2015 |
This novel about family relationships, friendship, and the benefits and dangers of loyalty is set in 1971 Bombay, during the brutal Bangladeshi Liberation War and President Indira Gandhi's increasingly corrupt and repressive rule. The central character is Gustad Noble, a proud and respected middle aged bank clerk, who lives with his wife and three children in an apartment complex in a crumbling middle class neighborhood. Despite an outward appearance of stability, the Noble's domestic calm has been disrupted by the decision of Sohrab, the eldest child, to forego a scholarship to the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, which would likely ensure his and the family's financial stability, and a serious illness that has afflicted Roshan, the youngest child and only daughter of the family. Gustad also remains hurt by the decision of his best friend and beloved neighbor, Major Jimmy Bilimoria, to leave the Khodadad Building where they lived suddenly and without warning one year earlier. Jimmy's absence has left a large void in Gustad's life, particularly at a time when he faces trouble within and outside of home.

One day Gustad receives a mysterious letter from Jimmy. The Major has joined the Indian Secret Service, and he asks Gustad to grant him a very important favor. After he deliberates on it and consults his family, Gustad agrees to help Jimmy. However, once he realizes what Jimmy has asked him to do he soon realizes that his friend has put him, his family and his career in danger. He is caught between a rock and a hard place, as Jimmy's colleagues make it clear that he may suffer repercussions from them if he doesn't fulfill Jimmy's request, which adds more stress and uncertainty to his already troubled life.

Although I found Such a Long Journey to be a well written novel, filled with interesting characters, I didn't enjoy it nearly as well as I did his two other novels, A Fine Balance and Family Matters. Several key characters, particularly Sohrab and Dilnavaz, Gustad's wife, were thinly portrayed, Sohrab's decision to forgo his scholarship to IIT remained a mysterious one, given the lack of opportunities for young men with BA degrees in India, and the story ended in an abrupt and unsatisfying manner. I'm still glad that I read it, and I would recommend it, but mainly to those who have already read his previous books. ( )
1 vote kidzdoc | Apr 2, 2015 |
A Superior novel. We forget in the English-speaking world that there's a lot of people in India who can read what we write. Mr. Mistry is a good stylist, and his picture of not only Indian life, but that of the Parsis, a Zoroastrian community, is fascinating for me. But in India, even a man seeking only to lead a quiet life, can be drawn into intrigues and some danger. A highly recommended novel! ( )
  DinadansFriend | Nov 10, 2013 |
Another great book by this author! I cried and cried in the end! It is about Gustad and his wife Dilnanvaz, raising three children in an ever changing India. This changing culture and political scene is the backdrop for Gustad's difficulties raising a son that doesn't know "what's good for him". The blending of old and new ways and the clashes it causes both in Indian society and and it Gustad's family is well told. Excellent! ( )
  camplakejewel | Oct 12, 2013 |
I just finished and plan to read another Mistry book soon. More soon. ( )
  ming.l | Mar 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
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He assembled the aged priests and put questions to them concerning the kings who had once possessed the world. 'How did they,' he inquired, 'hold the world in the beginning, and why is it that it has been left to us in such a sorry state? And how was it that they were able to live free or care during the days of their heroic labours?"

-Firdausi, Shah-Nama
A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of year
For a journey, and such a long journey...

-T.S. Eliot, 'Journey of the Magi'
And when old words die out on the tongue, new

melodies break forth from the heart; and where the

old tracks are lost, new country is revealed with its wonders.

-Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali
For Freny
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The first light of morning barely illuminated the sky as Gustad Noble faced eastward to offer his orisons to Ahura Mazda.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679738711, Paperback)

Mistry does something that only the really natural writers can do: without apparent effort, manipulation or contrivance, he creates characters you like instantly and will gladly follow for as long as the novel leads. The book is about an Indian family during the years of Indira Ganhdi's rule; it's also a study of the times, its politics and corruption, and was especially interesting for me, who knows so little about life in the rest of the world. It had to be a good book: after I read Such a Long Journey, I wanted to go right out and buy a plane ticket and see India for myself.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:20 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

With his personal life unraveling, Gustad Noble, a Bombay bank clerk, agrees to help the Indian intelligence service, and is quickly caught up in a political scandal.

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