Such a Long Journey Paperback – May 3 1997
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Rohinton Mistry's fame has only increased with each of his novels, but his first remains his best. Such a Long Journey sees India's crisis with Pakistan in 1971 and the corruption of the Gandhi regime through the life of a Bombay bank clerk, with the attention to character and story that have made Mistry as popular a writer as he is admired.
From Publishers Weekly
Mistry, Bombay-born author of Swimming Lessons and Other Stories from Firozsha Baag , serves up an exotic feast with this novel. The year is 1971, and India is ready to pursue a war against Pakistan over the region that will become Bangladesh. This chaotic period is seen through the eyes of one Gustad Noble, a family man and Parsi bank clerk in Bombay. Gustad's fortunes have begun to change for the worse, with disappointments and bad luck sweeping through his previously secure way of life. When an old friend secretly recruits him to assist in a seemingly heroic mission under the aegis of Indira Gandhi's CIA-like operatives, he becomes enmeshed in a series of dangerous events, with tragic results. Mistry's prose displays the lightest of witty touches, and the narrative is often quite funny, particularly when it invites us inside the minds of the knowable, likable, somehow familiar men and women whose activities propel the plot. A writer of enormous range and shrewdness, Mistry delivers no manifesto, but an intelligent portrait of the corrupt aspects of Indira Gandhi's years in power. Throughout his byzantine scenario, he demonstrates empathy for and deep understanding of his characters. His novel evokes Rushdie in its denser, florid moments, and T. Coraghessan Boyle in its more madcap flights.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Mistry's characters are real; they're developed as individuals and they stand seperatly--from the main character Gustad Noble to his upstairs neighbor who barks, literally, at the moon. When one of many of Mistry's characters dances their way onto this carefully wrought stage, he or she envelopes the reader--we don't wait for this scene to finish in order to get to the meat of the matter--we relax, we sift slowly with the writing as we're there with each of the characters' struggles.
This is a book of enormity. This is a book that when finished, regret sets in. The last few pages dangle themselves out, and when the last word is read and the book closed, the reader has a sense that this one is special, that there aren't many like this one, and that it's too bad, really, that it's over.
The novel is set during the rule of Indira Gandhi, and is a damning indictment of both her government and American foreign policy of the time. The journey is both a physical and metaphorical one, of Gustad's bedside visitation of a friend he thought had betrayed him, and of Gustad's eventual realization that there are few absolutes in life beyond that of death, that for every face there are a myriad of facets.
There are several subtle but poignant metaphors woven throughout this narrative, the most memorable being the character of Tehmul, who is a physically and mentally disabled man with the character of a boy, and it is this pull of the innocent versus the carnal that mirrors much of the political and social turmoil of the novel.
Although short-listed for the 1991 Booker Prize, Such a Long Journey was pulled from the University of Mumbai's English curriculum because of protests from the family of Hindu nationalist, Bal Thackeray - yet one more example in the world of unenlightened people nurturing fear-mongering.
I'd urge you to read Such a Long Journey. It is a story that will nestle in your psyche and remain.
I novel centres on the Mumbai Parsi, Gustad Noble. He and his family have seen better days and are now struggling to get by in 1970s Mumbai. Gustad becomes involved with a scheme run by the mysterious Jimmy Bilimoria - what is the meaning of this, and how will it turn out?
Apart from this mystery, the main delight of the novel is how Mistry weaves the central plot into a kaleidoscope of descriptions of life in Mumbai. I have Parsi friends, so I was not completely at sea with the descriptions Mistry uses. Yet, his account of the Parsi funeral ceremony culminating at the Tower of Silence was both moving and intriguing (for those not familiar with Parsi funeral rights, it's scarcely believable, but nonetheless true).
It was Sartre, I think, who said that "hell is other people". Mistry doesn't go as far as that, but he does give the impression of an India teeming with life, full of people invading each others' space. As such, coping with this becomes a daily chore - others are both invasive of privacy and frequently unreliable when you depend on them. And yet, that is only part of being human - for all their faults, most if not all people have redeeming characteristics.
While Gustad Noble's home life seems to be spiralling out of control, one son refusing to attend the right college, his daughter enduring never-ending bouts of sickness, and his wife feverishly invoking traditional treatments on all sides, he becomes anonymously embroiled in a scandal that reaches to the heart of Indira Ghandi's corrupt power structure, claims his best friend, and shakes his faith in his country to its core.
Gustad's efforts to clean up the wall of the Khodadad compound, for years an impromptu lavatory, yield results beyond expectation - transforming a cesspool into a shrine. The problems facing India in the 70's, religious intolerance and the aftereffects of partition, are reflected in miniature as the wall and the Noble's are caught between municipal corruption and the mob.
All in all, very much worth the read. I'm looking forward to tackling "A Fine Balance", Mistry's second (and longer) novel, also shortlisted for the Booker. Cheers
Most recent customer reviews
I ordered this book because I loved "A Fine Balance" and had high hopes this would be equally as good. It was not but still worth reading. Read morePublished 6 months ago by C. Hopkins
The story is fantastic, all Mistry's books are so well written in my opinion. He is a natural story teller but my feeling is this is what India is! Read morePublished on May 3 2012 by Brenmarr
Having read "A Fine Balance" first, which is a masterpiece, I was hoping for an equally enthralling novel. "Journey" is a great read no doubt about it. Read morePublished on May 23 2005
I read this book after I read "A Fine Balance", and it goes to show (happily) that Mistry's writing style has developed and become much more interesting. Read morePublished on March 9 2002 by Edward Aycock
Mistry is a modern author whose writing compares to author's of "the Great Books". Such a Long Journey gives a stunning idea of life during Indira Gandhi's reign. Read morePublished on Jan. 15 2002 by M. Harris
This interesting first novel tackles several long journeys -- India's transformation from the raj to a brawling, corrupt, mismanaged, constantly at-war democracy under Indira... Read morePublished on Dec 20 2001 by Robert E. Olsen