A House for Mr Biswas by V. S. Naipaul

About the book

A House for Mr Biswas is V. S. Naipaul’s unforgettable fourth book and the early masterpiece of his brilliant career. Born the ‘wrong way’ and thrust into a world that greeted him with little more than a bad omen, Mohun Biswas has spent his forty-six years of life striving for independence. But his determined efforts have met only with calamity. Shuttled from one residence to another after the drowning of his father, for which he is inadvertently responsible, Mr Biswas yearns for a place he can call home. He marries into the domineering Tulsi family, on whom he becomes indignantly dependent, but rebels and takes on a succession of occupations in an arduous struggle to weaken their hold over him and purchase a house of his own.

Reviewed by North Hayling Reading Group:

Not all finished it, but all recognised the high quality of the writing, even if they couldn’t warm to the main character! (personally it is one of the three best modern novels ever).

Star rating: ****

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8 thoughts on “A House for Mr Biswas by V. S. Naipaul”

  1. Review by Ems Valley U3A Reading Group:
    A gentle and delightful book. Vivid characterisation and descriptions. An insight into a different culture. Could have been slightly shorter. Interesting to start at the end!
    Star rating: ****


  2. Review by Wallington Village Reading Group:
    Very long book – waste of time and paper! 3 novels in 1 book? Does one need to understand the culture to find it comic? Very depressing – the hopelessness of life. He failed in everything he tried – a loser. well written, but not enjoyable – would not read anything else by him. Brilliant characterisations.
    Star rating: **


  3. Review by Shipton Bellinger WI Reading Group:
    The majority of the group did not enjoy, indeed did not finish this book. A small minority enjoyed it.
    Star rating: **


  4. Review by New Forest/Waterside U3A Reading Group:
    The group had very mixed reactions to the book. Several failed to get into the book, finding the style of writing difficult. Several failed to see anything comic about the story. Most, however, finished the book and gained enough from it to stimulate a searching discussion of the themes (father Vs son relationships) and (the ex-colonial state of limbo many Indians find themselves in). The general conclusion was that Naipaul’s written English is beyond reproach but he cannot conceal the very large racial chip on his shoulder.
    Star rating: ***


  5. Review by Barnfield Book Club:
    None of us liked this book. We were not engaged at any level either in the exploration of an unknown culture and the characters emerging from it, or in the story line. We did not find it ‘comic’ nor drawn in by the use of language and ideas. It was a disappointment. And, many found the amount of reading daunting for the time available.
    Star rating: *


  6. Review by Entre Nous Reading Group:
    Most found it overlong and depressing. Mr Biswas portrayed as a pathetic character. Little humour was detected.
    Star rating: **


  7. Review by Museum Reading Group
    The jury this month was not unanimous in its verdict! Two of the group thoroughly enjoyed the novel’s “quirkiness” and the insights it gave into a foreign culture. They also empathised with the central character – sadly but humorously hopeless. Three of us however did not finish it. Whilst recognising the strength of the writing we were irritated by its length. We did not find the humour and human insights compensated for thr amount of time it would have taken to complete it.
    Rating: none given


    1. some beautiful prose,very well written ,and two people did enjoy it .
      the rest of us thought it was overlong and very depressing`
      we could find no comedic value in it as stated on the book front-beating wives and children not being funny in our view.


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