"A House for Mr Biswas" is one of the more well-known novels by Nobel Prize-winning author V. S. Naipaul, detailing the biography of an Indian-origin man growing up on Trinidad. The book details the story of his life from his early childhood to his death in middle age, with the central theme being his frustrated attempts to escape the banality of his surroundings. The book was apparently based on the life of the author's father.
This book is almost 600 pages long, and while it took me several weeks, I read it all. I became interested in it, despite the seeming lack of major plot points. The protagonist, Mohun Biswas, is born to an immigrant family, and loses his father in his early childhood. As a child, and later as a youth, he shows intelligence and curiosity, but it is never enough to lift him out of his surroundings, as he tries to find a sustainable job. He marries into a larger, (relatively) richer family, and becomes resigned to being in the middle of their squabbles while trying to find some type of work. He has a number of children, gets a job as a reporter at a small newspaper, and towards the end of the book, finally buys a house, which, however humble, is a sign of his independence, which he enjoys very briefly before his passing.
The book displays the frustration of the protagonist well. The people around him are petty, quarrelsome, greedy and banal. He lives in a poor world where it is hard to get ahead, and the usual counterbalance to that--- community and solidarity--- is missing. And while Mr Biswas is a step above the people around him in having some aspirations and cultural interests, he also comes across as petty himself. I appreciate the book trying to give an unsentimental portrait of small town life, but I also found its tone to be condescending, as the follies of the characters are explained at length. I appreciated this book, but also found it very bleak.