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Bombay Time: A Novel Paperback – July 5, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The middle-class denizens of a Bombay apartment complex come to life in Umrigar's engaging debut, which tells the story of a half-dozen protagonists through the prism of a wedding hosted by respected lawyer Jimmy Kanga. Kanga's rise to glory is just one of several intriguing subplots. The novel begins with the story of Rusi and Coomi Bilimoria, a couple whose marriage becomes frayed when Rusi's business plans don't match his expectations and Coomi's mother-in-law turns out to be a live-in nightmare. Other interesting yarns include that of Dosamai, a bright young woman who, after her parents force her to marry down to ensure the future of her sisters, eventually turns into the local gossip. The neighborhood drunk, Adi Patel, also has a tale to tell involving a tragic interlude with the daughter of a laborer that effectively ruins his life, and the widow Tehmi Engineer takes an analogous road to ruin when her handsome husband, Cyrus, is killed in an explosion at a chemical plant. Umrigar is an accomplished, natural storyteller who remains an optimistic narrator despite all her grim plot twists, though she never softens the impact of the various tragedies on her characters. She also manages to work in a portrait of the decline of Bombay, delivering an impressive debut offering a glimpse into a cultural world especially that of the Parsis, an ethnic minority that most Westerners know only in its barest outlines. Regional author tour. (July)Forecast: Despite the rather drab cover design, this title should find a modest audience among readers of literary fiction and fans of other Indian writers.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

A native of Bombay and a journalist for the Akron-Beacon Journal in Akron, OH, Umrigar presents a startling contemporary portrait of life in a Bombay apartment house whose residents are mostly Parsis. The book focuses on middle-aged Rusi Bilimoria, one of several residents, who made some questionable choices early in life and must live with the fallout. Now, even as the entire building celebrates the marriage of one resident's son, Rusi finds his own marriage falling apart. This debut shows that lives are always a work in progress: one never really arrives but is constantly traveling. In the tradition of Rohinton Mistry and Bapsi Sidhwa, Umrigar poignantly explicates the dwindling Parsi community, which does not feature prominently in current South Asian fiction. A wonderful addition to both public and academic libraries for its contribution to the emerging Third World voice in literature. Michelle Reale, Elkins Park Free Lib., PA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 271 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (July 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312286236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312286231
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #878,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thrity Umrigar is the best-selling author of the novels Bombay Time, The Space Between Us, If Today Be Sweet, The Weight of Heaven, The World We Found and The Story Hour. She is also the author of the memoir, First Darling of the Morning. Her books have been translated into several languages and published in over fifteen countries. She is the Armington Professor of English at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
The Space Between Us was a finalist for the PEN/Beyond Margins award, while her memoir was a finalist for the Society of Midland Authors award. If Today Be Sweet was a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection, while her other books have been Community Reads selections. Thrity is the winner of the Cleveland Arts Prize, a Lambda Literary award and the Seth Rosenberg prize.
Thrity was born in Bombay, India and came to the U.S. when she was 21. As a Parsi child attending a Catholic school in a predominantly Hindu country, she had the kind of schizophrenic and cosmopolitan childhood that has served her well in her life as a writer. Accused by teachers and parents alike of being a daydreaming, head-in-the-clouds child, she grew up lost in the fictional worlds created by Steinbeck, Hemingway, Woolf and Faulkner. She would emerge long enough from these books to create her own fictional and poetic worlds. Encouraged by her practical-minded parents to get an undergraduate degree in business, Thrity survived business school by creating a drama club and writing, directing and acting in plays. Her first short stories, essays and poems were published in national magazines and newspapers in India at age fifteen.
After earning a M.A. in journalism in the U.S., Thrity worked for several years as an award-winning reporter, columnist and magazine writer. She also earned a Ph.D. in English. In 1999, Thrity won a one-year Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University, which is given to mid-career journalists.
While at Harvard, Thrity wrote her first novel, Bombay Time. In 2002 she accepted a teaching position at Case Western Reserve University, where she is now the Armington Professor of English. She also does occasional freelance pieces for national publications and has written for the Washington Post and the Boston Globe's book pages.
Thrity is active on the national lecture circuit and has spoken at book festivals such as the L.A. Festival of Books, the Tuscon Book Festival and the Miami Book Fair International; at universities such as MIT, Harvard University, and Spelman College; and at literary societies, civic and business organizations and public libraries all across the country.
Read more at or go to Thrity's Author page on Facebook.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Simon Cross on June 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In Bombay Time, Thrity Umrigar focusses on a small neighbourhood community of Parsi Indians. All share a common bond for the apartment block that they share, and a common bond of heritage and religion.On the face of it, the characters all have a reasonably high standard of living, but Umrigar scratches the surface to guide us to the real hearts of the characters.

The starting point for this exploration is the tail end of a wedding reception for the son of one of the couples, when the only guests left are those that have grown old together. The groom, Mehernosh, has grown up in the company of all the favoured guests, and has surprised most of them by returning to Bombay after studying law in the US. Each successive chapter concentrates on one or two of the reception guests, and reflects upon formative incidents in their lives. These incidents may have left them physically or mentally scarred, but all have grown through their pain into new more fully-fledged people.

For the final two chapters, all the characters are brought together to share joy and fleeting pain, and all again finish the evening wiser than they started. Although very much in the background, the city of Bombay too develops its character as the novel progresses.

Umrigar writes beautifully and sensitively, and I recommend highly this delicate and thoughtful novel.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By n.rivot on October 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Some of the characters are interesting and come to life. However, there is a tendency to purple prose (one of the characters hears the sound of his heart breaking), too many cute little Indian phrases, and the occasional howler: as an example, "valorized"(!) instead of "valued". There is no real story, just a series of vignettes. This author just is not in the class of Rohinton Mistry, S. Taroor, or Jhumpa Lahiri.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Lemas Mitchell on November 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book was good all around. A very light and easy read.

1. It shows us that people seem to like to be miserable wherever they are and at whatever time we choose to observe them. It doesn't seem to depend on anything.

2. The length was neither too long nor too short. Some books just drag on and on and on. In addition to the strong characterizations, the author gave us an idea of the magnitude of poverty in India and the destructive nature of the caste system that people don't seem to want to emerge from no matter how many centuries pass.

3. The characters were very well developed and believable. Again, just enough detail was used-- but not too much. And many of these characters are something that we might imagine having seen in real life.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This beautifully constructed novel quickly seduces the reader with strong imagery, pitch perfect dialogue, vibrant characters, and beautifully realized interrelationships which extend well beyond the bounds of the apartment house they share in Bombay. All the characters are attending a wedding reception hosted by successful lawyer Jimmy Kanga for his son Mehernosh, the wedding reception serving as the loose framework on which the author hangs the characters and their stories.

While this is not a plot in the traditional sense, Umrigar uses this device very effectively. As the festivities begin, each character privately recalls how s/he has been affected by some early love and/or loss, and the reader comes to know the characters and their stories intimately. We see how the characters relate to each other and interact, we care for them, we silently scold them for their blindness, and ultimately, we hope for their eventual happiness.

Unique aspects of Parsi heritage and history, the pressures of life in Bombay, the attraction of educated Indian youth to England and America, the unbridgeable chasm between middle-class Indians and the masses of homeless poor, the marriage customs, and the changing role of women in India are just a few of the fascinating subjects which Umrigar manages to weave into the stories of her characters. These personal stories take on broader significance in the light they shed on contemporary Indian society, and they achieve universality in their focus on love and loss.

As the novel comes to a close and the sweetness of young love and the wedding reception linger in the reader's mind, Umrigar injects an unexpected and powerful dose of Bombay reality, forcing the reader to see these lives in the even greater context of the human condition. This is a beautifully realized portrait of the lives of one group of friends in one building in one Indian city and how it relates to the world at large. Mary Whipple
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Carol Mathis on June 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Of late, a suprising number of novels coming out of the Indian diaspora have focused on small apartment buildings within Bombay: SWIMMING LESSONS, BEACH BOY, SUCH A LONG JOURNEY, and THE DEATH OF VISHNU are a few outstanding examples. Each has in common a deeply felt affection for the people and families who live in the building, many of whom have lived in close proximity for generations, and rich understanding of the complexities of the lives of these people. BOMBAY TIME can proudly take its place with these fine novels. Thrity Umrigar has a lively, sympathetic but unsentimental view of her richly diverse characters. Her writing is lush and sensuous, conveying in few words the smells and sounds and colors and heat of a decaying but vital community. Her ability to convey the heart of her characters is striking, making reading her work a pleasure.
Though each of these novels focus on a small Bombay community, each is its own gift. In the case of BOMBAY TIME, it is each individual character who provides a gift to the reader, the gift of understanding how another sees the world, and another way to make sense of the world. I finished BOMBAY TIME sadly, knowing I would miss each character, from the odiferous Tehmi to the rageful Coomi. Each character was memorable and gave me yet another little piece of India, another little piece of humanity. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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