February 9, 2012

Book: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 2:12 pm

What a great canvas! This book combines the speed of narration with a particularly troubling times in Indian political landscape to weave a story of five “friends”. Dina starts as an upper class lady who has relatively all the previleges of life and her friend Maneck, who also is from a similar background. Desperate circumstances bring them into contact with Ishvar and Om from a totally different strata of life.

Rohinton Mistry has written only a few books – He started with Such a Long Journey and, after a considerable gap, published this book. Again, after a long gap, he wrote Family Matters. As far as I know, he has not written any more full length novels.  He is, therefore, not a prolific writer by any definition. All his books deal with life in Bombay (now Mumbai) in India and describe the travails of the declining (in numbers) but highly successful Parsi community, who are the descendants of the Persian Zoroastrians who emigrated from Iran to escape persecution of the then rulers many years ago.

The other thing common with all the stories is that each of them is imbued with a deep pathos, the grief and troubles of the community struggling to make sense of an increasingly chaotic world full of suffering. In my opinion, this is still the best (and the biggest) of all of his books.

The background to the story is very real : the imposition of Emergency which meant suspension of the constitution and the democracy itself for a time by an ex Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, as well as the brutal treatment of the masses by her son Sanjay Gandhi are all based on reality, though the story itself is fiction.

This story combines the narrative power that would appeal to the average story reader with the tapestry rich enough to appeal to the readers who wish to understand the way of life in different parts of the world. It is a fine read and one of the best novels I have read in recent times.

Rating? Say a 9/10

— Krishna


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