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A House for Mr Biswas

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  18,994 ratings  ·  1,118 reviews
Mohun Biswas has spent his 46 years of life striving for independence. Shuttled from one residence to another after the drowning of his father, he yearns for a place he can call home. He marries into the Tulsi family, on whom he becomes dependent, but rebels and takes on a succession of occupations in a struggle to weaken their hold over him.
Paperback, 623 pages
Published 2003 by Picador (first published 1961)
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Lily interesting novel that would give the readers an outline of the indian life led in a foreign place. at times, the book deals with religion and often w…moreinteresting novel that would give the readers an outline of the indian life led in a foreign place. at times, the book deals with religion and often with the power role in families. the book has autobiographical elements, with mr. biswas, the protagonist, mirroring the author's father; and the character of anand, biswas' son, drawn parallel to the character of the author himself. a big book, that could take a long time to complete reading, but it's worth it.(less)

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Paul Bryant
Sep 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: someone who's already decided to read it
This one might make you pull your hair out. So if you're already bald you may need to read it wearing a wig. Also, you need a magnifying glass to find the plot. I had to take samples & send them off to a lab. Apparently there are detectable traces of story in here. But not so's you'd notice.


The whole thing is a slow, ponderous crawl through the life of a Mr Third World Nobody who gets married by accident and appears to have four kids also by accident, without having any sex as far as I could
Apr 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
A life, from start to finish.

This is a book for adults--people who have struggled continually to figure out how to live their lives, people who have dealt with the opposing forces of obligation to family and the desire for independence.

It's not a page-turner--and I admire that. There are satisfactions to be found in reading besides wanting to know what happens--the ever-changing balance of power in families; the slight accidents that change lives forever; the mulled-over decisions which change
Vit Babenco
Mar 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Somehow I was biased against V.S. Naipaul without any reason so I eschewed reading his books. But at last, aware of my hollow prejudice, I made myself read A House for Mr Biswas and the novel was above all my expectations.
“Here and there Mr. Maclean’s roof leaked; that added to the cosiness of shelter. Water fell from the corrugations in evenly-spaced streams, enclosing the house. Water flowed down the sloping land below the roof; the pellets of dirt had long disappeared. Water gouged out tortuo
Only pick this book up if you wish to slog through more than 600 pages filled with the bickering, moans and wailing of a large Indo-Trinidadian family. A Nobel Prize winner that disappoints. The plot is minimal, and the humor not to my taste. It bored me to such an extent that I have no desire to more fully explain. When a book is this boring there is just nothing to say.

After 144 pages: On the back cover Newsweek and Anthony Burgess speak of the book's "comic insight and power". What are they
I once read a novel where the main character was said to have been shipwrecked even before he had a ship. V.S. Naipaul's A House for Mr. Biswas introduces the reader to Mohan Biswas, someone who seems in a state of perpetual homelessness, even when he has a home. Most of the places where Mr. Biswas (called this from birth) takes shelter are presided over by in-laws, but through the years he does make several attempts at securing a home, with each house ending in shambles, forcing Biswas to again ...more
Fun fact touching on both V.S. Naipaul and the James Bond movies. Did you know that A House for Mr. Biswas was once in production as a Broadway musical? The following quote is from the obituary of songwriter John Barry, The New York Times, 2 Feb. 2011:
The origins of the James Bond theme are disputed. Mr. Norman [Barry's biographer] said that Barry brushed off a musical passage from “Bad Sign, Good Sign,” a song he had written for a musical version of the V. S. Naipaul novel A House for Mr. Biswa
Ben Thurley
Oct 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
A hugely enjoyable, though simultaneously excruciating, novel. Naipaul has created a character in Mohun Biswas who is, at once, deeply unsympathetic – prone to minor spites, absurd self-regard, and the petty enactment of drawn-out and demeaning grudges against those nearest to him – but whose struggle to assert his independence, identity and worth against the odds (even against the fate outlined for him at birth) is utterly compelling.

The descriptions of family life, of community, and of the na
Jan 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There it is, a modest roofed structure in Sikkim Street standing tall amid the perfumed beds of anthurium lilies. New memories of wet earth after the rain, freshly painted picket fences, the sweet flowers of laburnum tree, mixed aromas flouncing through the warm rooms and wind whiffing through the trees telescoping the painful past. A sense of belonging cherished with merited identity-Mr. Mohun Biswas’s house.

I shy away from the postcolonial contemporary third world fiction. Most of them overwhe
Chad Bearden
Apr 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
"Biswas" is my kind of novel. Some complain that it is a bit meandering and aimless, and this is true to an extent. But what the book aims to accomplish (I suspect) is not to give the reader some nice and tidy story with a beginning, middle, and end. Naipaul is aiming for something far more epic: to describe a man's life. He literally starts with Biswas's birth and tracks this willful, sad, cocky man's life all the way to his death. The fact that Biswas's life is full of the mundane does not mak ...more
It is a painful book to read because a lot of the things Naipaul has written about has happened in your own family. Or on your street. It is so brutal that you wonder how Naipaul could write about his own father and his childhood with such vicious humor that almost seems to border on cruelty. There is no magic realism here. It is a book about a terribly wounded and helpless people which on the surface seems to be told bereft of any sympathy. Naipaul does not romanticize the lives of the Indian p ...more
2 stars

I read this for school ... and sometimes I get lucky and actually like the book that's assigned, however, not so much with this one. It was extremely random throughout the entirety of the book - and there was nothing I really liked when I think about it.

Overall, I'm pretty glad to be done with it.
Clif Hostetler
May 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
This novel provides a detailed account of the life of Mr Biswas from birth to death. It takes place in the East Indian community living on the island of Trinidad during the first half of the twentieth century. Biswas is described as a hapless individual prone to irrational optimism who seems doomed to experience bad luck — much of it caused by his own mistakes.

The overarching story is a sad mixture of repeated failures and barely visible success. One view of the story is to see it as a life of
Sonia Gomes
Oct 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
All that Mr. Biswas wants is respect, not money, not love, not recognition just respect……
Born in Trinidad in a poor home he is tricked into marrying Shama Tulsi daughter of the well known, very rich Tulsi House, all because he had had the temerity to write ‘I love you’ on a scrap of paper and hand it over to her. Although warned by many he persists in marrying her.
Everyone knows that the Tulsis are on lookout for drones for their daughters, once married the husbands become their property. They
There’s something about owning a property that taps deep into our psyche. That feeling of calling four walls and a roof your very own speaks to a sense, not just of ownership, but of belonging. The first time I bought an apartment and walked into it, decorated to my own taste, there was an atavistic sense of laying claim to some intangible sense of “me”.

It is this search for a sense of identity and belonging that underpins Naipaul’s story of Mohun Biswas. Because his search for a house to call
May 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Rating: 5🍌

After the emancipation of slaves in Trinidad in 1835, the British had a labor problem. The solution was to import thousands of indentured servants from other colonies, and throughout the 19th century thousands of men and women from India traveled to the West Indies to work as unofficial slaves in the British colony. These laborers formed their own communities and social structure distinct from their homeland of India; today, more than a third of Trinidad and Tobago identify as Indian d
Sep 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: naipaul
Mohun Biswas story from start to finish is definitely not a page turner. He is a self centered, impulsive man and prone to complaining. His father dies early on through drowning while looking for him. He starts work as a sign writer and ends up marrying Shama and being embroiled in the Tulsi family life. Moving into his inlaws house is horrible, overcrowded and he is at the bottom of the pecking order. He lives with his wife and her extended family where he is dominated by her mother and sons. I ...more
Oct 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5. I expected more. While I'm certain the novel is deeper than I read, it's difficult to fault one for being so distracted by the protagonist Mr. Biswas' narrative voice, which is undoubtedly one of the most annoying, cringe-inducing in all of literature.

Think: "Coffee Talk" with special guests, Fran Drescher and Sponge Bob Squarepants.

Katia N
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
t is a wonderful book: unsentimental, moving, existential and visual. Gorgeous writing. It is amazing that someone could write such a novel aged 28. It is dubbed as “darkly comic”. But i did not feel it comic at all - melancholic, sometimes angry - yes.

It is about a life of a man, Mr Biswas, trapped in the web of a large, matriarchal and very tightly controlled family which he does not seem to have a will to leave. It is about the life passing by, unnoticed; about small daily struggles which oc
Feb 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A House for Mr Biswas by V.S. Naipaul is a wonderful book, included in The Modern Library Top 100 books (at : )

In fact, I had such a great time reading it, that I only ended it after a long delay: I never wanted to part with Mr Biswas, his family and Trinidad Island. As it happens, I identified with the main character.

A House for Mr Biswas is a Great Book and an immense joy to read..

I had read A Bend in The River, also by V.S. Naipaul- before A House for
Jun 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"So later, and very slowly, in securer times of different stresses, when the memories had lost the power to hurt, with pain or joy, they would fall into place and give back the past." - Page 557

Found near the very end of the novel, this little gem of a sentence is not only a beautiful and evocative bit of prose in it's own right (which it certainly is), but also seems to me a perfect key to understanding Naipaul's wonderful novel about Mohun Biswas, a most unfortunate man trying to get by in pos
Alok Mishra
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Is it like modern novels? No.
Is it entertaining? Not that much. Boring maybe.
Has it romance, thrill and 'that thing'? Not at all!
Should I read it? Of course!

If you are a serious fiction reader looking out for something special after your mundane, one of Naipaul's and Asia's best work is for you! Read it slowly; understand it deep; you hit the jackpot! A writer's grief becomes fodder for your thoughts.
Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it

V S Naipaul's fourth novel is his longest so far. Still mining the Trinidadian Indian Hindu community amid which he grew up, the locations, people, traditions, the Pundits and the strivers, the remnants of the Indian caste system, are all in play. Having read all four books, I swear I feel as though I know these people well.

This is a more somber book. Some humor remains but it felt as though Naipaul's affection for his people had waned. The story covers the entire life of Mr Biswas from his birt
Madhulika Liddle
Oct 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
The novel that marked VS Naipaul’s rise as one of the world’s literary stalwarts, A House for Mr Biswas straddles the years before and after World War II. The eponymous Mr Biswas is named Mohun, and is called either that, or ‘Biswas’, or ‘Man’, or, derisively, ‘crab-catcher’ by those around him, but always referred to—tellingly—by his narrator as ‘Mr Biswas’. As a baby, as a boy, he is still, in Naipaul’s words, Mr Biswas, an indication, perhaps, of Biswas’s lifelong need (only partly and rarely ...more
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is nothing more or less than the story of one man’s life, with all its quotidian struggles, pains, small victories and ultimate defeats. Like all V.S. Naipaul’s work I read it as subtly autobiographical. And indeed, Mr. Biswas is loosely based on his father Seepersad Naipaul. Seepersad was a poor sign painter from rural Trinidad who, captured by a mix of genius and desperation, rose to become a minor local journalist in Port of Spain. This book captures the inner life of a man trapped ...more
Jun 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This, my first Naipaul, and probably his best, though no more hilarious than Miguel Street. Many of his later books are non-fiction, like Among the Believers, A Tour in the South, or even The Loss of El Dorado. Here, Hanuman House is everybody's nightmare mother-in-law's. The name evokes the Hindu god of war, a common stereotype of the mother-in-law made new in its witty application to the family home. Since Hanuman House holds all the in-laws, including brothers-in-law and Biswas' wife's nieces ...more
May 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who like South Asian diaspora literature and flinty prose.
The Trinidadian-English dialogue is just brilliant, and the people are all so tragic and hilarious at the same time, and Mr. Biswas is called Mr. Biswas from the time he is BORN. How can you beat that? Even if you think Naipaul's politics stink, there's no denying this book is a masterpiece. ...more
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a cheerfully, depressing, funny, sad, challenging and liberating book.

I first read Naipaul in the 1980s, after reading many books by Graham Greene. I was in art college and seduced by English writers that wrote about far off places. The books I read by Naipaul focused on Africa and India, most notably “A Bend in the River.” I really wanted to see India and Africa after reading these books even though the undercurrent of poverty, violence and anxiety ran through his books. In Canada, this
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
It took me a really long time to finish this book. I am not a fast reader so generally I try to avoid reading novels that are very long. Also it is my personal opinion that some of the detailed and fascinating descriptions of the settings (especially when the story is not moving forward at all) may cause an average reader of today to simply put down a book.
Nevertheless, Naipaul is a great writer and his skill is evident throughout this book. This is a story about life and the struggles and event
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Ok, I've spent over 4 days with this and am nearly halfway, but I'm going to cut my losses. I was hoping for something more like A Fine Balance, and since Naipaul has won a few awards, including the Nobel, I thought I could expect something more than what it is.

I just looked at a couple of reviews (both a 4-star and a 2-star) and it just isn't going to get better. I've said many times that I really like my life, but it isn't very interesting in the retelling. This was the story of the life of M
Aug 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Story of an ordinary man's life - 3/5

This book narrates story of a man who is like any other man we meet on day to day basis, who always dreams of making big in life, to provide sufficiently for the family and have a place of his own which he can call "Home".

The story revolves around a man named Mohan Biswas, who was born into a poor family and was declared inauspicious at the time of birth itself by family priest. He goes around doing many odd jobs in order to make a name for himself, until h
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What were your feelings about Mr. Biswas. As you read, did they change and if so how did they change? 1 7 Sep 06, 2018 10:16AM  
Errata? 9 74 Jun 12, 2013 11:04PM  
Pre-Reading Opinion 1 31 Mar 31, 2008 08:25AM  

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Naipaul was born and raised in Trinidad, to which his grandfathers had emigrated from India as indentured servants. He is known for the wistfully comic early novels of Trinidad, the bleaker novels of a wider world remade by the passage of peoples, and the vigilant chronicles of his life and travels, all written in characteristic, widely admired, prose.

At 17, he won a Trinidad Government scholarshi

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“He read political books. They gave him phrases which he could only speak to himself and use on Shama. They also revealed one region after another of misery and injustice and left him feeling more helpless and more isolated than ever. Then it was that he discovered the solace of Dickens. Without difficulty he transferred characters and settings to people and places he knew. In the grotesques of Dickens everything he feared and suffered from was ridiculed and diminished, so that his own anger, his own contempt became unnecessary, and he was given strength to bear the most difficult part of his day: dressing in the morning, that daily affirmation of faith in oneself, which at times for him was almost like an act of sacrifice.” 38 likes
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