With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India. The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers--a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.
As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.
The setting of Mistry's quietly magnificent second novel (after the acclaimed Such a Long Journey) is India in 1975-76, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, defying a court order calling for her resignation, declares a state of emergency and imprisons the parliamentary opposition as well as thousands of students, teachers, trade unionists and journalists. These events, along with the government's forced sterilization campaign, serve as backdrop for an intricate tale of four ordinary people struggling to survive. Naive college student Maneck Kohlah, whose parents' general store is failing, rents a room in the house of Dina Dalal, a 40-ish widowed seamstress. Dina acquires two additional boarders: hapless but enterprising itinerant tailor Ishvar Darji and his nephew Omprakash, whose father, a village untouchable, was murdered as punishment for crossing caste boundaries. With great empathy and wit, the Bombay-born, Toronto-based Mistry evokes the daily heroism of India's working poor, who must cope with corruption, social anarchy and bureaucratic absurdities. Though the sprawling, chatty narrative risks becoming as unwieldy as the lives it so vibrantly depicts, Mistry combines an openness to India's infinite sensory detail with a Dickensian rendering of the effects of poverty, caste, envy, superstition,corruption and bigotry. His vast, wonderfully precise canvas poses, but cannot answer, the riddle of how to transform a corrupt, ailing society into a healthy one.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I read this book a while ago and was entranced from page 2. I couldn't put it down. Each chapter contained a plethora of intense pain and agony to unbridled joy. The emotional rollercoaster just sucked me in and I became a Mistry fan.
What a beautiful story of lives intertwined in the pressure-cooker of a developing society, amidst the turmoil of prejudice and civil unrest. I recommend "A fine balance".
I read this book years ago. It remains indelibly etched in my memory as one of the most affecting and emotionally powerful stories I have read. It led me to an interest in India, a place I have now visited several times. Read this book...it will change your life. Be careful though, it's painful, and then more painful again and again.
A fine balance
Good writing, but every page is more depressing then the one before. If you would like to read about most horrible things that can happen to humans this book is for you. I had very hard time finishing this book. I would not recommend this book.