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Such A Long Journey

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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

339 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1991

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About the author

Rohinton Mistry

30 books2,985 followers
Rohinton Mistry is considered to be one of the foremost authors of Indian heritage writing in English. Residing in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, Mistry belongs to the Parsi Zoroastrian religious minority.

Mistry’s first novel, Such a Long Journey (1991), brought him national and international recognition. Mistry’s subsequent novels have achieved the same level of recognition as his first. His second novel, A Fine Balance (1995), concerns four people from Bombay who struggle with family and work against the backdrop of the political unrest in India during the mid-1970s. The book won Canada’s Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Award. It was nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was a finalist for the Booker Prize. Mistry won the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 2012.

Author photo courtesy of Faber and Faber website.

Wikipedia article at THIS LINK.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 594 reviews
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,179 reviews9,236 followers
February 22, 2012
P Bryant: Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for Goodreads.

Rohinton Mistry : My pleasure. It's such a nice website.

PB: Yes. Regarding Such a Long Journey, your first novel, must say that I found it almost unbearably moving.

RM : Why thank you. Many people have said similar things.

PB : In fact (tears begin to stream) when I think…

RM : Have a tissue -

PB : When I think -

RM : Have another tissue -

PB : When I think..

RM : Yes?

PB : of the fate of Gustad Noble and his family.. (breaks down completely)

RM: I… I… (begins to crumple too)

(Sounds of weeping)

PB : And poor Roshan..

RM : I know, I know … hnnn hnnnn sniff...

PB : Waah, waah

RM : Life is so..

PB: I know, life is so..

RM : I...

PB : Gggg...

(More weeping, no further discernible remarks)

Profile Image for Mala.
156 reviews210 followers
April 29, 2015

This book is suffused in such melancholy that I'm still unable to shake off the feeling.
In Paradise Lost, Milton described Hell as a place without hope- such is Bombay, India in 1971-- overflowing gutters, mounds of fetid garbage, dirt & despair everywhere- a state of general apathy which is only symptomatic of the deep rot within- emanating from the power centre in Delhi; from the very top.

One could live with chronic water shortage, load shedding, adulterated milk (still same same!), but how to live with chronic shortage of hope and happiness?

Gustad Noble, the protagonist, is an archetype for hardworking, decent men everywhere- a lowly bank employee, he supports his family of wife & three children on his meagre salary but is overwhelmed by events beyond his control--his son's refusal to join IIT, a premier engineering institute, (like most middle/lower middle class Indians, Gustad also sees education as a ticket to a better life), his daughter's illness & the treachery of a dear friend:

How swiftly moved the fingers of poverty, soiling and contaminating...Sleep was no longer a happy thing for him then, but a time when all anxieties intensified, and anger grew-a strange, unfocussed anger-and helplessness; and he would wake up exhausted to curse the day that was dawning.

The sadness in this book is not always a full-blown tragedy  rather the slow, everyday corrosive sadness : there is a birthday  dinner here( mark, not b'day party) which was so upsetting, I think I've never read any b'day description like that except perhaps in Pinter's play.

This is a family that lives from paycheck to paycheck, any unexpected expenditure & they could lose the veneer of middle class respectability-- this is especially bitter considering Gustad's once priviledged upbringing, family fortune lost due to an unscruplous uncle. No wonder, he frequently regresses & seeks refuge in memories:

It was pitch dark but he did not switch on the light,for the darkness made everything seem clear and well-ordered...the furniture from his childhood gathered comfortingly about him. The pieces stood like parentheses around his entire life, the sentinels of his sanity.

The omniscient narrative of this family drama plays out against the backdrop of larger tragedy of the East versus West Pakistan conflict, leading to influx of millions of Bengali refugees in India, the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war & the creation of Bangladesh.
Initially the war is there only as grim headlines, the refugee relief tax- something that Gustad consistently ignores -the fellow has enough on his plate but the war catches up with him in a totally unexpected way!

This book will appeal to minority religious & ethnic groups, dealing as it does with any such group's concerns with issues of identity & assimilation, here in this case- the Parsis.
The Parsis came to India around 7th-10th century, fleeing religious persecution in Persia (now Iran). Honest & hardworking, they soon established themselves in agriculture & later in trade & commerce, but they are notorious for their inward-looking ways, paranoid about their dwindling numbers.

Typically, the Noble family lives in Khodabad building, peopled by other Parsis- all memorable & eccentric characters! There is a Miss Havisham-like character too!

We find that initially almost all of Gustad's interactions are with Parsis only-- the 'journey' of the title refers to the ultimate journey of mankind- death; the journey up the Tower of Silence but more than that it is Gustad's inner journey-- from a self-absorbed, bitter man, unable to connect with anyone or anything, to a compassionate, understanding, accepting & forgiving person-finally at peace with himself and others & what a journey it is!

The power of this book lies in its intimate details of family life & its honest-to- goodness evocation of reality- it brings alive the India of the 70s— as kids we were slathering our skin with Odomos mosquito repellant cream even in the early 80s though the generic drugs were long being replaced by the branded ones.

The book ran into political controversy in 2010 when the ruling political party in Maharashtra, The Shiv Sena, banned it from the Mumbai University's English lit syllabus, on charges of extremely derogatory language against it & the Marathas.

The charges are true- which again brings us to the eternal conundrum of freedom of speech versus censorship! One could say that the ideas expressed here are that of a character not the writer's but then Rohinton Mistry feels nothing but contempt for the Indian political class in general & who can really blame him!
I heard that he is even more vituperative in A Fine Balance which deals with the emotionally searing issues of casteism & the emergency years.
I'm definitely looking forward to the remaining two novels considering Mr. Mistry is the only writer whose all three novels have been shortlisted for the Booker prize!

Read it if like Shelley you also believe that "Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts."

Ps. Oh after pages & pages of bleakness, there was a glimpse of humour- a wonder wall- I had read so many references to it but had no idea it was here- fed up with ppl urinating & defecating alongside his 300-feet- long building outer wall, Gustad gets a pavement artist to paint holy figures of Gods & shrines on it! Soon it's a place of sanctity & fragrance- flowers, incense sticks & all! Who says religion doesn't do any good in India!?

P. Ps. I'm despairing of this review's length but I must add that I didn't like the novel's black magic track as it only reinforces India's exotic image . As an ironic device though, it was very powerful.
Profile Image for Erwin.
89 reviews70 followers
July 15, 2014
I really enjoyed this book. It is a touching story of an Indian family in the early seventies, a turbulent time in India's history. Mistry managed to create a colourful and rich setting and his characters are well believable, imperfect and therefore very human.
I gave it four stars because it did not drag me into the story like his other novel A Fine Balance did. I still felt I was kept at a comfortable distance where in AFB I, as a reader, felt I was being made a part of the misery and happiness of the main characters.
Yet it is a remarkable debut novel (he did write a collection of short stories before this, which I recommend too). Read this novel first (if you still can) and know that his work gets even better than this. Next stop: Family Matters!
Profile Image for Daren.
1,280 reviews4,361 followers
October 8, 2021
Set in Bombay in 1971, as India prepares for a war with Pakistan over what becomes Bangladesh, it tells the story of the family of Gustad Noble. Noble is a hard working bank clerk and devoted family man.
The book touches on many themes, political corruption, long term friendships, loss of loved ones, alternative medicine, and the mentally ill. It is a well woven story, but as a first novel, perhaps does not go deep enough into some themes, and includes a few too many.
The characters are likeable, the story unfolds well enough, but it perhaps didn't draw me in as much as I might have expected.
Mistry's second and third novels receive high praise, and for that reason I opted to read this book first. Hard to go back to earlier writing without a level of disappointment, so I look forward to those in due course.
Three and a half stars, rounded up.
Profile Image for Vartika.
355 reviews592 followers
May 7, 2020
I first read this book five years ago — long before I ever read A Fine Balance and had my heart formidably broken to pieces. Today, just as all those years ago, Such A Long Journey remains for me a profound sampler of the tragic despair that Mistry came to be known for over the course of his career, and what a haunting despair at that, touched by claws of injustice and vicissitude as palpable in his fiction as in life.

Set during Indira Gandhi's prime-ministerial rule against the backdrop of the Indo-Pakistani war and the liberation of Bangladesh; this stunning debut novel draws the reader to eye-level with Gustad Noble, a middle-class Parsi man living in Bombay in the 1970s. Through Gustad's tribulations, Mistry unspools a heart-wrenching tale of family, friendships, betrayal, corruption, and in a broader sense, the human condition. With its subtle craft and rich but unpretentious metaphors, this book holds together a profusion of stories in its many tightly-woven subplots. Indeed, Mistry in Such A Long Journey manifests the intermingling of the personal and political with a lucidity and impact rarely seen elsewhere.

At the crux of this book is the Khodadad Building, a small, walled, decaying Parsi enclave where the Nobles reside. From the beginning, the building becomes not merely a site but also a significant character in its own right through which the story unfolds. At various times, it serves as an eloquent stand-in for the municipal (and existential) endangerment posed to Bombay and its culture in general as well as to the Parsi community in particular. The black wall at the end of the compound, too, similarly embodies the ideas of peace, privacy and safety, all of which are imperiled by the many wars and other developments of the 1970s.

Mistry's indictment of corruption on various levels of the government under Indira Gandhi (as well as that of American foreign policy during the Bangladesh liberation war) figures prominently in this novel, seen as it is in the 'betrayal' of Major Billimoria, the fate of Tehmul-lungra and the general squalor that predominates in the neighbourhoods Gustad describes. Mistry here takes the abstract idea of a corrupt power and gives it shape through experiences here that can best be described as fictional representations of real afflictions in the political fabric of the country. As a work from the diaspora, Such A Long Journey is written with a prominent sense of Indianness, skillfully foregrounding both the quirks and serious issues that come with it.

It is therefore unsurprising that this book was banned by Mumbai University after (violent) intimidation and protests led by the scion of an extremist, ethno-nationalist party in the city. The Shiv Sena's issue with the book is perhaps doubly so because while this book minces no words about any political forces, it is also sonorous with characters belonging to India's minority communities, the very same that the ethno-nationalists feel threatened by. Hardly any characters in this book are Hindus, a condition that allows a nuanced look at the internal rhythms of life in minority communities, especially within Parsi families. Moreover, through characters such as Mrs Kutpitia, the rivalry between Gustad and Mr Rabadi, and the hints of early romance between Darius and Jasmine; many individual and communal aspects, from superstition to pride, are depicted. Meanwhile, the relationship between Sohrab and Gustad tells a not-uncommon story about parental aspirations and pressures.

Friendship, too, takes the center stage here, be it Dilnavaz and Mrs Kutpitia, or Gustad's friendships with the Major, Mr Dinshaw, Malcolm Saldahna, and Tehmul respectively. I particularly found the latter most touching; Tehmul's arc is a tragic example of the way society — all sections of society — treat those different from our own selves, and a fitting metaphor for the larger themes of the novel. My second reading made me aware of how Gustad's friendship with Dinshaw (with its occasional references to Laurie Coutinho and the 'domestic vulture'), as well as family life and portions about the House of Cages, highlight the casual and pervasive misogyny that is seemingly offset by a 'powerful' woman Prime Minister (who is, if I may add, a veritable figure of corruption and evil).

My favourite section of this book, however, is to do with the symbolism around the street artist whom Gustad brings to paint over the Khodadad Building wall. Through him, Mistry not only makes a point about secularism and civic values in India, but also emphasises our mistaken notion of permanence and the ephemerality of material comforts — thereby perhaps also implying that the tragedy isn't here to stay, either. Not such a bleak book, then, after all.

While it may somewhat pale in comparison to its successor in Mistry's oeuvre, Such A Long Journey is nonetheless a brilliant, unforgettable book, a tightly knit and heartbreakingly told testament to its author's literary prowess.
Profile Image for Phil.
68 reviews9 followers
May 17, 2010
I have the name Rohinton Mistry etched on my brain for he is the author of my favourite book of all time – A Fine Balance.
This is a story that is again set in Mumbai, India, and is focused on a small community and in particular Gustad, his wife and their three children. It is brilliantly written in what I would call trademark Mistry language (having now read a whole two of his books!) – compelling and intricate with great character descriptions.
The reason I have given this book 3 stars and not 5 (as I did with AFB) is the lack of ‘event’ or ‘happening’. I kept reading expecting something to really get the heart beating or tears flooding but instead the author takes us down a series of avenues which might end in delight or despair but instead does neither. The whole story about the money being kept in their house for instance had great potential – would they be robbed? Might they spend it? Might the bank find out? – but instead nothing.
I am still a Mistry fan no longer is the author flawless as I might previously have suggested.

Profile Image for notgettingenough .
1,017 reviews1,168 followers
April 5, 2016

Update April 2016: I noticed, in connection with the banning of Naipaul's An Area of Darkness in India, that the University of Mumbai banned this book with alacrity upon the threat of violence from a rightwing political group looking for attention. All over the world free speech is being eroded in universities, ironically from both the left side of the divide and the right. It is something both sides apparently agree upon, that people should only be allowed to say what their side wants to hear. So in the end, what is the difference between a criminal group of thugs in India arguing for the banning of a book and those of quite a different political stance who recently fought to stop Germaine Greer, a noted public speaker and thinker for 50 years, from appearing on university soil?

You can find Mistry's own reaction to this here: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national...

I quote from it:

“As for the grandson of the Shiv Sena leader, the young man who takes credit for the whole pathetic business, who admits to not having read the book, just the few lines that offend him and his bibliophobic brethren, he has now been inducted into the family enterprise of parochial politics, anointed leader of its newly minted “youth wing.” What can — what should — one feel about him? Pity, disappointment, compassion? Twenty years old, in the final year of a B.A. in history, at my own Alma Mater, the beneficiary of a good education, he is about to embark down the Sena's well-trodden path, to appeal, like those before him, to all that is worst in human nature.

“Does he have to? No. He is clearly equipped to choose for himself. He could lead, instead of following, the old regime. He could say something radical — that burning and banning books will not feed one hungry soul, will not house one homeless person nor will it provide gainful employment to anyone [unless one counts those hired to light bonfires], not in Mumbai, not in Maharashtra, not anywhere, not ever.

“He can think independently, and he can choose. And since he is drawn to books, he might want to read, carefully this time, from cover to cover, a couple that would help him make his choice. Come to think of it, the Vice-Chancellor, too, may find them beneficial. First, Conrad's Heart of Darkness, in order to consider the options: step back from the abyss, or go over the edge. Next, the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore's Gitanjali. And I would urge particular attention to this verse: ‘Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free; Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;...Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake'.”


I know quite a bit about India in the period in which this is set - but only at a very micro, rural level. This is an urban middle-class story set against the backdrop of the period of war with Pakistan, a world I really only started discovering through Mistry's books. For the colour of life in the city, the stench of it, its cheapness, its noise, its horrifying poverty-strickenness, its cruelty, this book can be thoroughly recommended. To watch the small attempts to rise above these circumstances, to escape to something better is distressing...

rest here:

Profile Image for Hugh.
1,254 reviews49 followers
September 24, 2021
I hear a lot here from friends and in groups about reading slumps, something that rarely affects me, but for various reasons this week has been a reviewing slump for me, and I now have three finished books to review, all of which could justify long ones. So this one may be a but rushed.

This was Mistry's debut novel, and it inevitably suffers a little by comparison with A Fine Balance, while showing that that masterpiece didn't just come from nowhere. This book is rather less panoramic, focusing on one lower middle class Bombay/Mumbai Parsi family in the early 70s.

The central character is Gustad, a bank clerk, who is married to Dilnavaz and has two teenaged sons (Sohrab and Darius) and a younger daughter Roshan. Gustad receives a letter from an old friend Jimmy Bilimoria, who is now working for the secret services (RAW) and wants Gustad to help him deposit a large amount of cash in the bank he works in, for an operation to support Bangladesh in its independence struggle. This draws Gustad into a web of deceit and corruption, and threatens to ruin him.

As in A Fine Balance, the writing is colourful and full of entertaining descriptions of the life of the city, for example one subplot focuses on a neighbour who is a sort of witch/folk healer and her ideas on how to stop Sohrab abandoning the engineering degree his family expects him to take, and an illness that threatens Roshan.
Profile Image for Mahima.
177 reviews124 followers
February 6, 2017
Since I will have to critically analyse this book for a paper I'm studying this semester, I'll leave the critical thinking part for later. Instead, I'd like to focus on how this book made me feel.

Mistry does this thing - he makes sure you're on the verge of crying, and then he says something that almost magically dispels the sadness that would inevitably have resulted in tears. But this book did make me cry in the end, which also means that I loved it. Any book that can make me cry is a good book.

I always say this, but there really is something about Indian writing that tugs at my heart like no other writing can. One of the reasons behind that is that no matter what part of India these writing talk of, no matter what part of its culture they display, all of it has this particular element that makes it all, in a way, almost the same. This element is the saddening yet awe-inspiring Indianess. No matter the never-ending diversity, in the end the Indianess of it all takes precedence over everything else. No matter how different Indians are from each other, the Indianess that we share cannot be denied.

Also, I cannot wait to read more by Mistry!
Profile Image for P..
442 reviews112 followers
May 14, 2018
Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance is one of the most deeply affecting books I've ever read. It shook my conscience to its bone and obliterated any sense of national pride I might've had. Instead, it instilled in me a deep sense of guilt, shame, and disgust about the history of this allegedly great nation - a nation where millions of people were and are systematically oppressed and humiliated and exploited to no end. Hollinghurst mirrors this sentiment word-to-word in his novel Swimming Pool Library about Britain :

"There are times when I can’t think of my country without a kind of despairing shame. Something literally inexpressible, so I won’t bother to try and speechify about it."

Such a Long Journey pales in comparison with A Fine Balance and it doesn't cut as deep. My constant mental comparisons with AFB probably precluded a decent, sane, unbiased reading of this novel. It's (most probably) my fault and not the book's that I didn't enjoy it to the fullest for what it was.

Long Journey is a simple, perfectly good book about a Parsi man in Bombay who's very nostalgic about the better days of his life - a life that's taking a turn for the worse amidst a national turmoil, the constant threat of war and unrest within the family. Much can be gleaned about the Parsi way of life from this story and I was disappointed to realize my absolute ignorance about this community. I never knew that they practiced Zoroastrianism as I was of the idea that they were just another ethnic group. Their rituals are fascinating, especially being made prey to vultures in the Tower of Silence post death. Also, the Bombay in this novel is quite different from the Bombay we encounter in all the other famous novels (especially Rushdie's, maybe because they only center around the poshy posh places?). Maybe it's because it's PARSI Bombay.

The book is very casually patriarchial and partly misogynistic; it wouldn't survive moral scrutiny in the current era of sensitivity readers. It is understandable as it's narrated in the perspective of a man deeply entrenched in those beliefs and it can be argued that it's not the author's viewpoint. Still, it's quite shocking to find evidence that people were & are so bigoted when you think you're living in a liberal world. Mistry's novels also greatly succeed in conveying the patriarchial male psyche's objectification of the female body. It borders on the perverted and it dutifully fosters rape culture. The character of Dinshawji, in particular, is quite disturbing and his attitude toward women is utterly reprehensible. It's surprising what people could get away with in the past. Sexual harassment was so casually accepted and even gaily encouraged to an extent!

A contained, perfectly good novel that isn't overwhelming except in the depiction of the patriarchial (typical Indian) mindset. A jolly good snapshot of the past that un-creases your frown into a smile, but not the kind that makes you jump with joy.
Profile Image for Gorab.
611 reviews99 followers
September 4, 2019

As usual, the theme and premise was good. That's the thing about his books. You get to deep dive into a Parsi day to day life.

The descriptions around the wall. The wall artist.
The characters - Dr Paymaster, Peerbhoy Panwalla, Tehmul Langra, Dinshawji and Lorrie Coutino... and the incidents around them.
The ceremonies related to the tower of silence.
Yet again, theme around Indira Gandhi and her motorcar wala son :)

But somehow this lacked the punch and intensity.
Profile Image for Vaidya.
233 reviews54 followers
December 19, 2014
At various points I was reminded of these 3 Calvin and Hobbes strips:
The house has been burgled, and while Calvin is able to sleep peacefully with Hobbes as support, his parents find their peace disturbed.

That's almost the story of Gustad, a middle aged man with 3 children, watching them grow up, going through the vagaries of them growing up - a teenager, a pre-teen and a sickly child, and trying hard to hold the whole thing together. Then there are the friends who 'betray' him, friends he loses over time. This could be the story of any adult. Any 'adult' who has ventured out of childhood and doesn't know how to get back, who's improvising, making things up as he goes, not having a clear answer for every question being asked. Sometimes, things resolve on their own with time. Sometimes, you lose someone close. You say your prayers, pay your respects and get back to being an adult and running the family.

It's almost strange the way Mistry embeds Gustad's childhood into his adult life. Like the point where he creeps in on Tehmul masturbating and the door-curtain reminds him of his mother saying "Goodnight" through the veil of a mosquito net when on a vacation with his parents. I say almost because that's how it mostly goes. Random moments remind you of random events that are interlinked in strange ways. Some object, some smell or some sound bringing forth a hidden memory.

I love the way Mistry is able to bring about humour in the gravest moments - like the funeral of a dear friend, multiple funerals in fact, of a riot where someone close to him dies. When you don't have a character narrating the story for you, you tend to be a fly on the wall observing things as they happen. Mistry's style is to view different events through different flies, objectively, that the characters are ones he has you invested in over the past 300 pages makes no difference. This is just a riot happening on the street with stones being thrown. This is just every other day in the funeral home where a dead body has been brought in with the mourning relatives and friends. The emotions that come with death are for the people, for you if you are interested in the dead person. Not for this fly. This fly at the funeral home does not know about the fly in Gustad's house or the one in Gustad's bank.

I wrote when I wrote about A Fine Balance that there is an RKNish quality in the way RM writes and this book convinces you more than ever of that. That same humour with which he observes life in the bazaar, in the brothel and the next-door Doctor who yearns for normal middle-class people to walk in and not prostitutes or mechanics, the paanwalla with his stories. This could be Malgudi and not Bombay at the time of the 1971 war!
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,480 followers
November 30, 2016
While not as good as A Fine Balance, Mistry's first book, Such a Long Journey is an interesting tale about Indira Ghandi's India under Emergency Rule. It follows a single protagonist through a complex and occasionally dangerous landscape. It is interesting but I preferred Rushdie's Midnight's Children about the Emergency and A Fine Balance as a better example of Mistry's writing. Still, it deserves 3-stars as a highly readable story and a Booker prize runner-up.
Profile Image for Jennifer (formerly Eccentric Muse).
448 reviews911 followers
August 7, 2016
A better understanding of the political events occurring in the background would have enriched my reading of this, but even without, Mistry was able to catch and hold my attention, weaving layers of story and symbolism together, creating a sometimes farcical, bittersweet domestic tale. I felt like I got to know this group of middle-class Indians and their microcosm of that larger world a little bit better. I certainly got to smell it - from frangipani and sandalwood to rotting garbage and sewage. Mistry is such a sensual writer - he really has the capacity to bring you right into the world of his novels with these amazing details, characterizations and juxtapositions: superstition with philosophy, cruelty with kindness, great beauty with great atrocity. And his characters are so alive, so large, containing multitudes, as Whitman would say.

Really lovely and awful and fantastic and real - all at once.
Profile Image for Judy.
70 reviews3 followers
March 20, 2009
I loved this book. I read it in India and for me it reflects all the ambiguity of this wonderful country; the corruption of its government and yet the generosity and charm of many of its inhabitants. Gustad Noble is a character with whom ones sympathises from the start, a man who tries to do his best for his family and his friends in difficult circumstances and who is always doubting himself and his ability to negotiate the difficult world around him.
Profile Image for El.
1,355 reviews504 followers
November 18, 2011
I liked and disliked this book for all the same reasons:

* The story is slow to unfold. At first this was pure awesome because Mistry would drop these little hints that made me realize there was an incredible back story; but then as this continued it became repitious and frustrating. It also made it feel like so much of the text was really just filler.

* Interesting characters. I love interesting characters! But I quickly realized that there were so many different characters that they all began to feel like filler as well. They led to different storylines, which means the story winds up with many different little threads that should be tied up in the end. I'm positive one of the sons didn't even need to exist.

* Different storylines. As in anybody's life, there are many different threads, different relationships, different circumstances. That's what makes life interesting. Fiction can function in a similar way; but as stated above, too many different threads can be cumbersome, particularly if they don't come together or if they don't become resolved by the end. In this case, I'm not convinced they do.

I'm sure there's more, but frankly I'm bored with all that. I hoped for better, and was disappointed by the end because it all felt so inconclusive. There's a lot of sickness and death, but I wasn't able to wrap my mind around the purpose for it, though I'm sure there's an allegory or metaphor there somewhere that I'm failing to see because I got bored with the story. By the time the answers were revealed to us I didn't care anymore. That's unfortunate.

Still, I managed to find some quotes that I fully appreciated:

"One or two books at a time, and eventually I will have enough to fill that bookcase. It's all a family really needs. A small bookcaseful of the right books and you are set for life." (p 103)

"Always begins after the loss is complete, the remembering." (p 210)

And other stuff about it is pretty good. There's a character who paints a wall with different gods from different religions; I liked him. I don't know much about India's political tribulations over the years, and I know less about what was happening in the seventies when this story took place, but this was a nice insight into those issues.

I hear A Fine Balance is something special, so I will still make sure to read that.
Profile Image for Lorina Stephens.
Author 17 books63 followers
November 28, 2011
Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey is one of those remarkable confluences of astonishingly beautiful writing, tightly crafted plot, and fully-developed characterization. The work is neither pretentious nor formulaic. And although there is no major crisis that takes place, no earth-shattering destruction of place or person, there is a sustained tension throughout the novel that keeps you reading, that draws you into the life of the main protagonist, Gustad Noble.

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.
Profile Image for Tonya.
84 reviews12 followers
May 18, 2014
Another masterpiece by Mistry, i'm overjoyed that I have found another prize author! Set during the Indian war over Bangladesh, Gustad Noble takes us on a journey of fraud, corrupt politics, witchcraft, family feuds, a million religious relics and so much more. If you enjoyed A Fine Balance, then you're in for a treat. I loved this book.
Profile Image for Tanvi Prakash.
67 reviews13 followers
September 15, 2022
Lame ending but had me mostly hooked. All the Parsi jokes and Bambaiyya language made it so relatable and fun. Too bad the book is banned in Bombay colleges.
Profile Image for Prashanth Bhat.
1,539 reviews88 followers
May 14, 2020
Such a long journey - rohinton mistry

ರೋಹಿನ್‌ಟನ್ ಮಿಸ್ಟ್ರಿ ಜಾಸ್ತಿ ಬರೆಯಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಒಂದು ಕಥಾಸಂಕಲನ, ಮೂರು ಕಾದಂಬರಿಗಳು. ಎಲ್ಲದರ ಕಾಲಘಟ್ಟ ಸರಿಸುಮಾರು ಒಂದೇ.
ಅದಲ್ಲದೇ ಅವು ನಡೆಯುವ ಜಾಗವೂ ಅದೇ. ಅದಷ್ಟೇ ಅಲ್ಲ ತನ್ನ ಸಮುದಾಯವಾದ ಪಾರ್ಸಿಗಳದ್ದೇ ಬದುಕನ್ನ ಆತ ಚಿತ್ರಿಸುವುದು.
ಹಾಗಾದರೆ ಆತ ಯಾಕೆ ಪ್ರಸಿದ್ಧ?
ಯಾಕೆ ಅವನ ಓದಬೇಕು?

ಕಾರಣ ಸರಳ.
ಅವನ‌ ಬರವಣಿಗೆ.

ಅವನ ಬರಹದ ಸಾಲುಗಳು ಜೀವಂತ. ನಮ್ಮೆದುರು ಇಡೀ ಘಟನೆಗಳ ಹಿಡಿದಿಡುವ ಬಗೆ ಅನನ್ಯ. ತುಕ್ಕು ಹಿಡಿದ ಕಬ್ಬಿಣದ ಕಿಟಕಿಯ ಸರಳನ್ನು ಅವ ವರ್ಣಿಸಿ ಬರೆದರೆ ನಮಗೆ ಆ ತುಕ್ಕಿನ ವಾಸನೆ ಮೂಗಿಗೆ ‌ಬಡಿಯುತ್ತದೆ.

ಅವ ಬರೆದ ಕಾದಂಬರಿಗಳ ಕಥೆ ಎಮರ್ಜೆನ್ಸಿ ಕಾಲದ್ದು.
ಪುಣ್ಯಾತ್ಮನಿಗೆ ಇಂದಿರಾ ಗಾಂಧಿಯ ತಲೆ ಕಂಡರೆ ಆಗುವುದಿಲ್ಲ.
ಆ ಕಾಲದ ಬಾಂಬೆಯ ದಟ್ಟ ಚಿತ್ರಣ ಹೇಗಿದೆ ಅಂದರೆ ನಾವೇ ರಸ್ತೆ ಬದಿ ನಿಂತು ಕಾಣುತ್ತಿರುವ ಹಾಗೆ.
ನಾನವನ ಎರಡು ಕಾದಂಬರಿ ಓದಿದ್ದೇನೆ. ಒಂದು ಕಥಾಸಂಕಲನ ಮುಗಿಸಿದೆ. ಒಂದು ಕಥೆ ಅನುವಾದ ಮಾಡಿದ್ದೇನೆ.
ಇನ್ನೊಂದು ಪುಸ್ತಕ ಬಾಕಿ ಇದೆ. ಅದನ್ನೂ ಖಂಡಿತಾ ಓದುತ್ತೇನೆ.

ಅವನೊಬ್ಬ ಸಾಮಾನ್ಯ ಮನುಷ್ಯ. ಎರಡು ಗಂಡು ಮಕ್ಕಳು, ಒಬ್ಬಳು ಪುಟ್ಟ ಹುಡುಗಿ, ಹೆಂಡತಿ ಇಷ್ಟೇ ಸಂಸಾರ. ‌ಅವರಿರುವ ವಠಾರದಲ್ಲೊಬ್ಬ ಮಗು ಮನಸಿನ ಬೆಳೆದ ಹುಡುಗ,ನೆರೆಮನೆಯವರು.ಎಲ್ಲರೂ ಬದುಕ ಸಾಗಿಸಲು ಪರದಾಡುವವರು. ಮಗನ ಐಐಟಿಗೆ ಸೇರಿಸಬೇಕು ಅಂತ ಅವನ‌ ಕನಸು.
ಒಂದು ದಿನ ಮಗ ತನಗೆ ಇಷ್ಟವಿಲ್ಲ ಅನ್ನುತ್ತಾನೆ. ಅವನಿಗೆ ಸಿಡಿಲೆರಗಿದಂತಾಗುತ್ತದೆ. ಬದುಕು ನಿಲ್ಲುತ್ತದೆಯೇ? ಯಾವತ್ತೋ ಅವನು ಪಡಕೊಂಡ ಸಹಾಯಕ್ಕಾಗಿ ಒಬ್ಬ ನಿವೃತ್ತ ಸೇನೆಯವ ಅವನಿಗೊಂದು ಪಾರ್ಸೆಲ್ ಕಳುಹಿಸಿ ಇದರ ದೇಖಿರೇಖಿ ನೋಡಿಕೊ ಅನ್ನುತ್ತಾನೆ.
ತೆರೆದು ನೋಡಿದರೆ ‌ಹಣ.
ಬರೋಬ್ಬರಿ ಹತ್ತು ಲಕ್ಷ.
ಅವನದನ್ನು ಡಿಪಾಸಿಟ್ ಮಾಡಲು ಸಹಾಯ ಮಾಡಬೇಕು.ಅಲ್ಲಿಂದ ಸರಕಾರದ ಒಳವ್ಯವಹಾರಗಳ ಸುಳುಹು ಅವನಿಗೆ ಸಿಗುತ್ತದೆ. ಇಲ್ಲ‌ ಎಲ್ಲೂ ಕಥೆ ರೋಚಕವಾಗಲು‌ ಬಿಡುವುದಿಲ್ಲ ಮಿಸ್ಟ್ರಿ.
ಅದವನ ಹೆಚ್ಚುಗಾರಿಕೆ.

ಈ ಘಟನೆಯ ಗಮನಿಸಿ.
ಅಪಘಾತ ಆಗಿ ಬಿದ್ದವನ ಜನರೆಲ್ಲ ಹಿಡಿದು ಮೇಲೆತ್ತಿದ್ದಾರೆ.
ನೀರು ಮಾರುವವ ನೀರು ಕುಡಿಸಿ ಎಬ್ಬಿಸಿ ಕೂಡಿಸುತ್ತಾನೆ.
ಇನ್ನೇನು ಅಂಬ್ಯುಲೆನ್ಸ್ ಬರಬೇಕು.
' ಹಣ ' ನೀರು ಮಾರುವವ ಕೈ ಚಾಚುತ್ತಾನೆ.
" ನನಗೂ ಸಂಸಾರ ಸಾಗಿಸಬೇಕು ಸ್ವಾಮೀ"

ಹೀಗೆ ಬದುಕಿನ ಸಾರವನ್ನು ಚಿಕ್ಕ ಚಿಕ್ಕದಾಗಿ ಹಿಡಿಯುತ್ತಾ ಎಲ್ಲ ಒಂದು ಘಟ್ಟಕ್ಕೆ ಬಂದಾಗ ದೇಶದಲ್ಲಿ ತುರ್ತುಸ್ಥಿತಿ!

ಕಳೆದ ನಾಲ್ಕು ದಿನದ ‌ಗುಂಗು ಇದು.
ನೀವು 'ಸಿಟಿ ಆಫ್ ಜಾಯ್ ' ಓದಿದ್ದರೆ ಅದೂ ನೆನಪಾಗುತ್ತದೆ.

ಅಂದ ಹಾಗೆ ಇವನ ಮಾಗ್ನಮ್ ಓಪಸ್ ' a fine balance' ಅನ್ನುವ ಪುಸ್ತಕ. .
ಭಾರತದ ಲೇಖಕರ ಓದಬಯಸುವವರು ದಯವಿಟ್ಟು ಆ ಚೇತನ್ ಭಗತ್, ಅರವಿಂದ ಅಡಿಗ,‌‌ಆರುಂಧತಿ‌‌ ರಾಯ್ ಇವರನ್ನು ಪಕ್ಕಕ್ಕೆ ಇಡಿ.

ರೋಹಿನ್‌ಟನ್ ಮಿಸ್ಟ್ರಿಯ ಓದಿ. ಎಂತಹ ವಾಕ್ಯಗಳು
ಎಷ್ಟು ಜೀವಂತಿಕೆಯ ಪಾತ್ರಗಳು!
ಅಮಿತಾವ್ ಘೋಷ್ (ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ಸಪ್ಪೆ ಭಾಷೆ ಅವನದ್ದು.) ನ ಓದಿ.

ನಾವಂತೂ ಎಮರ್ಜೆನ್ಸಿ ಕಾಲದಲ್ಲಿ ಬದುಕಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಬಡತನ‌ ಈಗಿನಷ್ಟು ಮಾಧ್ಯಮಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಥಳುಕಿನ‌ ಸರಕಾಗಿರದ ಕಾಲ ಅದು.
ಓದಲೇಬೇಕಾದ ಪುಸ್ತಕ ಅಲ್ಲಲ್ಲ ಲೇಖಕ ಇವನು.
Profile Image for Lisa.
136 reviews24 followers
February 4, 2016
Poor Rohinton Mistry - he must know that the downside to writing one of the best books ever is that all of his other books will consistently get reviews that say "not as good as A Fine Balance".

This is indeed true, but this should not dissuade the reader from giving Such a Long Journey a fair crack as there is a lot about this book that is very, very good. Mistry's writing style is lyrical and eloquent. His dialogue is written so that you can feel as if you are in the kitchen with Gustad and Dilnavaz as they have a pop at each other. His secondary cast, including not-quite-all-there Tehmul and the superstitious pseudo-witch Mrs Kutpitia are entertaining and help to make the Khodadad Building feel like an authentic neighbourhood.

I think many readers who came away disappointed might have felt that Mistry did all the legwork to set up a heck of a rollercoaster but then did not choose to send Gustad on the ride. It would have been easy for the author to condemn Gustad to many shades of tragedy if he had been so inclined. However in real life when everything seems to go wrong at once, it is more usual to go through exactly the sort of despair that Gustad feels without actually encountering total catastrophe. In fact the usual outcome is a re-arrangement of one's priorities, which I think is what this book is about.
Profile Image for Lydia.
289 reviews230 followers
November 10, 2014
I feel like I'd have enjoyed this book more if I knew more about Indian culture and history, as it was I was a little confused at several aspects. Though not confused enough to not understand the overall plot. It's definitely reminded me just how ignorant I am of so many parts of this world. I felt like it was dragging for the last 40 pages or so, which was a shame because previously it hadn't felt like that.
It is undoubtedly well written, however.
Profile Image for Joan.
56 reviews50 followers
March 29, 2018
3.5. A good story, but not nearly as good as A FINE BALANCE.
Profile Image for Sana Abdulla.
459 reviews16 followers
December 26, 2019
The auther has an amazing ability to weave a story out of everyday life, with such talent and creativity that he can do no wrong by me.
In this book I was thinking, aha you are losing your grip here Mr. Mistry and you will be getting a B on your paper for the first time, because I'm not buying a crucial part of the plot (Gustad/Jimmy betrayal) but of course he has a way more sophisticated imagination then me and he wraps up the book with so much finesse,he deserves another standing ovation.
Profile Image for Asha Seth.
633 reviews313 followers
October 1, 2014
I wonder why we never get to hear much about good books like Mistry’s penning quite contrary to the books that stand tall in bookshops but have nothing to appease a reader’s appetite.

Anyway! Here goes the review.

What you wouldn’t want to know about a book is that it is endlessly tiring, way too lengthy running over 450 pages with sentences as long as a paragraph, too many characters to keep up with, so many incidents that you forget what happened the last page, and to make matters worse, events so tragic that you sleep the nights with them in your head for days after you’ve finished the book.

Yes, that precisely is what ‘Such a Long Journey’ is like. It doesn’t defy its title at all. It stands true for all the things listed above and yet, you know what? You ll be surprised that you loved reading each word, soaking in what each page offers, grieving and cherishing moments along with the author wondering what exactly the author felt when he wrote the book.

Gustad Noble is a clerk at a bank. He is devoted to his family and work. He worships his traditions and values and a man who would risk anything for family and friends. His world starts to tumble when his teenage son refuses to join IIT quite averse to his delight and leaves the family, his best friend Major Bilimoria unexpectedly leaves the city to join the government, his colleague Dinshawji’s long carried illness leading to his death, a major ill- suspected affair of money that he’s forced into, constant bickering and banters with Khodadad’s residents.

Much against his will to lead a calm life, his way is strewn with bummers that cause him much distress, plaguing his heart with suspicions, hatred, anger, scorn. His balanced life is suddenly running off the track while he tries to manage things single-handedly. At the other hand, his wife, Dilnavaz appears to be a woman of calm demeanor who constantly motivates her husband, grieves for her son Sohrab who’s left the house, fighting for his comeback, trying all sorts of practices from faith to dark magic with the help of a Miss Kutpitia who is ever-willing to help. It also shows us snippets about the Indo-Bangladesh war in 1971, just briefly.

Written from Gustad’s perspective, SALJ rejoices in the aftermath of events that occur quite reverse to the protagonist’s anticipation and expectations. It is pretty much like how our lives are designed, how we fall off-balance with unprecedented turn of events, yet fight and stay strong and the author has managed an impeccable job capturing every moment laced with the individual’s emotions and mind’s struggles.

There are few things I feel could have bettered the book in places it falls short such as vapid dialogues, script running over characters, and an ending that could have been well shortened. There are times you will find yourself just skimming pages for the depth of the details but not once will you put the book down. Because although slow, Mistry sure knows how to keep his reader indulged. And this as a debut novel is an artistic work and so many shades better than most other novels that are nothing but mere trash.

Profile Image for Arpita.
46 reviews7 followers
August 18, 2020
What a lovely book ! The protagonist is a regular guy, a typical Indian father, and he wins you over with his gentleness and approach to life. The story is set against backdrop of Mumbai and the turbulent times during 1971 war. Politics of that decade makes a sneak peek appearance, yet is always influencing the background story. The characters you thought you wouldn’t like, also grow on you, much like life itself. The major events unravel slowly, but the story moves fast. Most characters are well etched, their stories receive their due as the book progresses. Is there a happy ending? Yes and No, with such books, you always have a feeling that the story should continue, especially when it ends with a crescendo..
Profile Image for Nita.
39 reviews17 followers
September 13, 2007
Such an engrossing book...and I learned so much from it! This is the second Mistry book I have read, the first being A Fine Balance. I am in awe of his writing skills and his expansive knowledge. (But just as with A Fine Balance, I wish he did not make the disgusting so aptly disgusting--I could actually smell the dirt and the squalor by just reading the passages describing that!)
Profile Image for Jo.
645 reviews62 followers
March 9, 2020
4.5 stars

Such a Long journey may seem to only be about one family but Rohinton Mistry manages to encompass the politics of India at this period in time through their story. Gustad is the main character, a Parsi who has a strong faith, a father disappointed in his eldest son, a loving if distracted husband to his wife Dilvanaz, a good friend to Dinshawji his joker coworker, Tehmul a brain damaged young man and most importantly to Major Jimmy Bilmoria who asks a favor of Gustad that could put him in danger. This last point is the plot as such but the novel is so much more than this as Gustad rages against the ineptitudes and corruption of his local government, mourns the losses of his past and tries to maintain his faith, all while his wife visits her mysterious neighbor Miss Kutpitia for remedies for her children’s illness and bad decision making.

As in his short story collection, Tales from Firozsha Baag Mistry is a wonderful writer of character making you completely invested in their fates. There are no saints and angels and everyone is good in bad in varying degrees but they all manage to engage our empathy, amusement or interest in some way. He writes grief beautifully and there are descriptions of a funeral or of Miss Kutpitia’s apartment, for example that are just so evocative. This is a wonderful portrait of India at a moment in time and of a family trying to make the best of the lot they have been given. Highly recommended.

Some Favorite Lines

‘Once again, the furniture from his childhood gathered comfortingly about him. The pieces stood like paranthese around his entire life, the sentinels of his sanity.’

‘For thirty-five years, the very essences of all the hoarded mementoes had worked like a gentle salve upon the unkind gashes of her sorrow. They soothed her grief with their secret marrow, and Miss Kutpitia understood this well.’

‘The debauched and alcoholic president of the enemy was said to be organizing unceasing bacchanals to keep his minsters and generals occupied: he feared an ouster if they regained their sense for too long. Thus did the crazed syphilitic cling to power, growing ever more desperate as he saw, through his haze of liquor, the unyielding worm gnawing contentedly at his brain.’

‘He tried again: imagine, he said, that our beloved country is a patient with gangrene at an advanced stage. Dressing the wound or sprinkling rose-water over it to hide the stink of rotting tissue is useless. Fine words and promises will not cure the patient. The decaying part must be excised.’
Profile Image for Nathan Drake.
191 reviews8 followers
January 28, 2022
Life in a city, a skyline decked with skyscrapers masking a slum spanning an overwhelming landmass. Towering buildings of glass housing employees that travel in claustrophobically crowded public transport with space barely to breathe to earn means of sustenance in a block of land that doesn't feel like home. "Film line mein jaana chahte the hum" (English: "I wanted to get into the Film Industry) says every alternate public transport driver I interact with in this city. A film industry that is more about the people adorning its posters than the people creating something which eventually leads to the creation of said posters. A life that is more about creating a means to lead said life than..... actually lead said life.

Rohinton Mistry's exquisite SUCH A LONG JOURNEY is a deliciously sharp satire about life in Mumbai and it is steeped generously in the colloquial milieu of Mumbai in a manner that, as someone who has lived in this city for more than 20 years, I could connect with profoundly. I would go as far as calling this "The Mumbai Novel" or "The Novel One Could Experience Mumbai Through Without Actually Visiting Mumbai".

A novel that begins with celebrating a birth and ends with wondering about circumstances (both literal and thematic) pertaining to a death, Mistry manages to find humor in even the most grim circumstances, just like one at times feels like fate is having a cruel laugh at their expense. But the humor also has a tinge of sadness to it, just like hearing the aforementioned laughter would make us feel a kind of melancholy we probably can't express in words and most of us will instead choose to move on by busying ourselves yet again with earning a means for sustenance.

Life in a city is funny in a sad way indeed. And Mistry elucidates about it exquisitely in his Booker shortlisted masterpiece SUCH A LONG JOURNEY.
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