2000 - 2007 Booker Prize

Family Matters – Rohinton Mistry

Family Matters: 1

A Fine Balance is my favourite book and so you’d have thought I’d have gone out and read all of Mistry’s books straight away. The reality is that I was too scared to read them – I knew my expectations were far too high and didn’t want to be disappointed. I eventually built up the courage to try Family Matters and although it isn’t in the same league as A Fine Balance, I wasn’t disappointed.

Family Matters has a much narrower scope than A Fine Balance. It follows a single family as they struggle to look after their father, Nariman; an old man who suffers from Parkinson’s and then becomes immobile after a fall. Trapped in his bed Nariman feels the terrific burden he has placed on his family. They struggle to afford his medicines and find it physically draining to care for him.

The characters come alive on the very first page and I felt immense sympathy for everyone involved – the relationship between Nariman and his grandson was especially touching. There were times when I longed for the plot to move beyond the family, but the fact that I was happy observing such mundane scenes for the majority of the book shows Mistry’s talent as a writer.

The sights and sounds of India were vividly described and Mistry has an amazing ability draw attention to the little things and give them a whole new depth.

In the flower stall two men sat like musicians, weaving strands of marigold, garlands of jasmine and lily and rose, their fingers picking, plucking, knotting, playing a floral melody.

I strongly recommend that you read A Fine Balance, but once you’ve read that I think you’ll appreciate this subtler insight into the problems faced by one Indian family.




22 replies on “Family Matters – Rohinton Mistry”

Kailana, I think a lot of people have it unread on their shelves – it is quite long, but I quickly found that I didn’t want it to end and so was pleased at its length. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Jackie, I read Family Matters first and wish I had read A Fine Balance before I did. Mistry’s writing makes India come alive, but I would have appreciated the narrower focus of Family Matters more if I had known more about the country’s background. Your review is right on the money (as always).

Debbie, Thanks for the kind words. I think Family Matters will be appreiciated a lot more by those who know a bit about the events happening in country at the time it is set. I was surprised how little the political events were mentioned in this book as I’d suspected that it would be on the lips of everyone living through it, but I guess I was wrong – the ordinary people just want to get on with their lives.

I’ve been “saving” this one because it’s the last of his that I have yet to read. But I’ve been sorely tempted, and your response echoes that inclination. But. And it’s a big but. I’ve also been thinking of re-reading one of the others instead. And that’s a tough choice indeed. It really should be A Fine Balance, I know, because I read it so quickly that I’m surprised I had time to love it, but…

Buried in Print, I actually re-read A Fine Balance before attempting any of his other books. I can reassure you that it gets even better with a re-read. 🙂 I’m sure you’ll enjoy whichever book you decide to read – Mistry is one of the few authors with enough talent for me to be confident of that fact. 🙂

I’m also always a little afraid to read another book by an author whose work I really, really admire. But it’s nice to know this one rates well in comparison to your favorite. You’re not the first person I’ve heard say A Fine Balance is a favorite book–I found a used copy at a library sale, but I think the size of it does scare me off a little. I can see I really must read it soon!

Danielle, Its size scared me at first, but I can reassure you that not a word it wasted. I hope that you decide to read it and enjoy it as much as I did.

Diane, This one is a bit shorter than A Fine Balance, but agree it needs a fair chunk of time to fully appreiciate it. I look forward to your thoughts at some point.

I too read this after finishing A Fine Balance (which is one of my favourites as well), and I loved this book as well. Not as much as A Fine Balance, but it was still wow! Different from A Fine Balance in so many ways, but yet so similar….

Such A Long Journey is fantastic as well, so I’d recommend that!

anothercookiecrumbles, It is good to know that Such a Long Journey is just as good as this one. I hoped it would be, but again I’m torn between wanting to save it and wanting to experience his writing again. Hopefully I’ll build up the courage to read it sometime soon.

I still haven’t read anything by Mistry, in large part, I think because his books are SOOOOO LOOOONG and they scare me. What if they crush me while I try to read them?!? 😉 Also, I’ve heard that A Fine Balance is kind of devastating, so I suppose I’m also holding off on that for when I want a really long book that will make me sad.

As an aside, I understand about your counter-intuitive behavior of holding off on reading everything by an author you’ve really enjoyed in the past. I do the same thing, though I do it less because I am scared that his/her other books won’t live up to the last one I read and more because I like to hoard good things and that way I know I still have plenty of good books by them to discover!

Steph, I have had a lot of discussions with people about whether or not A Fine Balance is a happy book. Most people see it as really depressing, but I like to think it is quite positive. Yes, a lot of really bad things happen, but in the end they are still happy, despite their problems. I think it is an important example we could all learn a lot from. I really hope you decide to give it a try one day soon.

I was also glad that Family Matters lived up to the high expectations of A Fine Balance. I tend to think of Family Matters as the “quieter” of the two. Your review is spot on. I liked Such a Long Journey as well.. He’s just such a good writer and that is comforting!

Kinna, Yes – this book is much quieter. I’m pleased that you enjoyed Such a Long Journey – I’m looking forward to reading it at some point, although I face the same dilemma whether or not to save it so I always have one of his books left to read.

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