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Family Mattersby Rohinton Mistry
Shortlisted for the 2002 Booker Prize
"Rohinton Mistry is not a household name, but it should be....[He] has long been recognized as one of the best Indian writers; he ought to be considered simply one of the best writers, Indian or otherwise, now alive....Mistry has a keenly developed feeling for the absurd: there is hardly a page in all of his fiction that isn't funny on one level or another....One of the strongest features of Mistry's novels — and the reason he is so reminiscent of the great nineteenth-century writers — is his use, sometimes audacious, of big metaphors. Family Matters and A Fine Balance are masterly in the way they imbue certain lives, or deaths, with meaning....Major writers differ from minor ones, even great minor ones, in their ability to handle the big questions: death, family, the passing of time, the inevitability of loss, God or the corresponding God-shape hole. Mistry handles all of them in an accomplished style all his own." Brooke Allen, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic review)
Synopses & Reviews
One of the most interesting book trends of the nineties was the emergence of a rich body of literature written in English by Indian authors — and from all corners of the globe: Arundhati Roy (India), Michael Ondaatje (Canada), Salman Rushdie (England), Jhumpa Lahiri (United States), etc. But my personal favorite is Rohinton Mistry (Canada), whose A Fine Balance (1995) is widely considered among the finest novels published during the past ten years. A tough act to follow, to be sure. So for his next novel, Mistry didn't try to recreate his earlier success. In fact, he wrote its opposite. Where the former was a vast panorama encompassing an entire subcontinent, Family Matters uses an intimate canvas to portray a single family. Where A Fine Balance earned Mistry comparison to Dickens, Family Matters, with its preoccupation with domestic matters, is more Austenian. But while it may play on a smaller stage, Family Matters is no less compelling than its predecessor, and that's saying something indeed. Martin, Powells.com
Rohinton Mistrys enthralling novel is at once a domestic drama and an intently observed portrait of present-day Bombay in all its vitality and corruption. At the age of seventy-nine, Nariman Vakeel, already suffering from Parkinsons disease, breaks an ankle and finds himself wholly dependent on his family. His step-children, Coomy and Jal, have a spacious apartment (in the inaptly named Chateau Felicity), but are too squeamish and resentful to tend to his physical needs.
Nariman must now turn to his younger daughter, Roxana, her husband, Yezad, and their two sons, who share a small, crowded home. Their decision will test not only their material resources but, in surprising ways, all their tolerance, compassion, integrity, and faith. Sweeping and intimate, tragic and mirthful, Family Matters is a work of enormous emotional power.
"Warm, humane, tender and bittersweet....This beautifully paced, elegantly expressed novel is notable for the breadth of its vision as well as its immensely appealing characters and enticing plot." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Rohinton Mistry writes sweeping, realist family dramas that recall such 19th century writers as Tolstoy and Dickens....Mistry's newest novel, Family Matters, isn't as resonant or as powerful as A Fine Balance — few books are — but it's moving all the same, occasionally achieving an incandescent tenderness that never lapses into bathos....Mistry has an amazing way of setting up ordinary lives scarred by tragedy, then illuminating them with moments of merciful beauty. He writes simply, but by accumulating the small details of his characters' existence, he creates a visceral feel for their loves, humiliations and little victories....
"Mistry...solidifies his standing as one of the world's finest authors....Come to [this book] with the anticipation or foreboding you'd bring to a letter from home. You'll be rewarded luxuriously." The Seattle Times
"Mistry's prose is expansive, generous to its characters and ample in story....Frequently clear-eyed, courageous and deeply entertaining." The Oregonian
"Imagine a 19th-century realist sensibility probing the abiding mysteries of India in our time. Leo Tolstoy meets R. K. Narayan....Mistry?s compassion for [his] people is boundless." Newsday
"Almost Tolstoyan in registry and range....To say Mistry captures the textures of India well and creates larger-than-life characters is to note the least of his achievements." The Observer (London)
"Stealthily, even movingly, Mistry reveals small triumphs of humanity over distaste, minute shifts that signal leaps of compassion." The Guardian (UK)
"Mistry has created a meticulously evoked, deliberately paced portrait of decay and ruin....It is not a pretty picture, but Mistry makes it warmhearted and stirring all the same." Time Out New York
Set in Bombay in the mid-1990s, "Family Matters" tells a story of familial love and obligation, of personal and political corruption, of the demands of tradition and the possibilities for compassion.
About the Author
Rohinton Mistry was born in Bombay and now lives near Toronto. His first novel, Such a Long Journey, received, among other awards, the 1992 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book of the Year. In 1995, A Fine Balance won the second annual Giller Prize and, in 1996, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction. Mistry is also the author of Swimming Lessons, a collection of short stories.
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