Saturday, 24 March 2007

A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry

Synopsis: In 1975, in an unidentified Indian city, Mrs Dina Dalal, a financially pressed Parsi widow in her early 40s sets up a sweatshop of sorts in her ramshackle apartment. Determined to remain financially independent and to avoid a second marriage, she takes in a boarder and two Hindu tailors to sew dresses for an export company. As the four share their stories, then meals, then living space, human kinship prevails and the four become a kind of family, despite the lines of caste, class and religion. When tragedy strikes, their cherished, newfound stability is threatened, and each character must face a difficult choice in trying to salvage their relationships. Set in mid-1970s India, a subtle and compelling narrative about four unlikely characters who come together in circumstances no one could have foreseen soon after the government declares a 'State of Internal Emergency'. It is a breathtaking achievement: panoramic yet humane, intensely political yet rich with local delight.

This is a definite must read, at 600 pages it is a bulky read yet every page is well worth it. Unlike The Inheritance of Loss, which I read recently, the book is able to comment on the Indian political situation in detail without the reader needing immense prior knowledge of the situation. The book follows the lives of 4 characters and their aquaintances, their is not one character, central or marginal whom I wasn't interested in. The book builds the characters worlds and their past, their religions and castes, bad habits and good points.

Thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking. Definatley recommended.

If you have read this book feel free to comment or leave a link to your own review.


raidergirl3 said...

I thought for weeks after about how each of the characters reacted to their fates - how the poor guy with the legs still stayed optimistic and enjoyed life, just kept on rolling (bad line, *smirks*) and the guy who really had everything, or at least lost the least, was most unahppy. Attitude is everything.
Mistry has some other books; I'm hoping to read Family Matters this year. He's Canadian.(me too!)

katrina said...

I've heard that Family Matters is even better than A Fine Balance.

Anonymous said...

I know that the story is impossibly sad, but it is so beautifully written I would read it again.