I wonder why we never get to hear much about good books like Rohinton Mistry’s ‘Such a Long Journey’ quite contrary to the books that stand tall in bookshops but have nothing to appease a serious reader’s appetite.
‘Such a Long Journey’ is a book I picked on instinct because I have taken up a challenge to read Indian Literature this year. On the surface, it has nothing to offer. It doesn’t even seem promising, except that it was a Man Booker Prize nominee. But I went for it nonetheless. Here goes the review.
Gustad Noble is a clerk at a bank. He is devoted to his family and work. He worships his traditions and values and is a man who would risk his life 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-handed. At the other hand, his wife, Dilnavaz Noble, 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, ‘Such a Long Journey’ 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.
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 paragraphs, too many characters to keep up with, details that never seem to finish saying what they have to say, 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 stands true to its title.
The book is everything 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.
One of the quotes that stayed with me,
“He spent long hours meditating on the wisdom of loving living things which invariably ended up dead.”
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 was abrupt and 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 debut novels that are nothing but mere trash.
This is a sure recommendation if you are good with slow books.
If you happen to read The Lowland or have already read it, do share your thoughts below.