Thoughts on reading: A House for Mr Biswas

You know there are some books that you’re really supposed to like, or at least pretend to like. A House for Mr Biswas by V. S. Naipaul is one of those. All the world appears to think it’s great.

This was the December read for my book club and I don’t think I would have ever read it otherwise. I’m going to start with the good. The prose was gorgeous; it was incredibly well-written. I’ve never given much thought to life in Trinidad between the two world wars and the setting is vividly drawn. The social relations and culture described were new to me and I liked that. The characters were equally well realised. In technical terms it was clearly brilliant.

And I just didn’t like it. Which I suppose answers the question of what matters more, the writing or the story, because all that beautiful writing couldn’t make this story interesting to me. It is a fictional biography of a horrible man who has horrible relationships with other horrible people. It’s supposed to be a comedy but I didn’t get it. It was a struggle to finish it and I only did because I have a rule about finishing books I start. Unless you’re already a fan, give this one a miss.

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