I know, I know. It’s been way too long since I’ve posted a review of a book on here. It took me an entire month to finish this last one, which is quite unusual for me, even though the book was 700 pages long. I don’t want you to misinterpret my tardiness for a dislike of it though-in fact I gave it five out of five stars on my goodreads account, so I really did enjoy A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. I knew I would like it before I even opened up the front cover-it’s won numerous literary awards, but has also been chosen as an Oprah’s Book Club pick, so when published, it appealed to all literary snobs and unpretentious book club readers alike. That is the sign of a good book indeed!
The story takes place in India, during the political turmoil of the 1970s. It features four main characters whose lives become entangled throughout the plot. The majority of India’s population had it rough at that time (understatement of the year, I realize), so not surprisingly this book is filled with sadness, misfortune, and disgusting unfairness. Some of these characters seemed to never catch a break, while others succeeded by taking advantage of others, which seemed to add to the balancing act that Mistry creates within the story.
The genius in Mistry’s writing is found in these comparisons between characters. People who have lived lives of nothing but struggle and destitution are depicted in a humanizing, and compassionate yet realistic way. When sadness touches those that don’t struggle to the same extent, they react differently. However Mistry is not assigning blame, or placing one person’s efforts above the other-he is simply painting a picture, leaving the reader to form their own opinions. Other than deep distrust of the government and politicians, very few emotions are black and white in this novel.
Moments of joy are simple and fleeting in the narrative, but when you come across them, you learn to savour and enjoy them that much more, just like some of the disenfranchised characters in this book. The horrific things you read about are never easily forgotten, yet the optimistic scenes are a well-earned reward that the reader receives after passing through the terrors that riddle the story. I know how cliche this seems, but Mistry truly teaches you the beauty in everything, which makes those 700 pages well worth the read.