A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

fine-balanceAbout the Book

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.

Review

It has taken me a while to review this book. However, this was quite a memorable read, the kind of book that haunts you long after you turn the final page. Sometimes I think about the characters and it takes a minute for me to remember that they are not people I know in real life but fictional characters. Has that ever happened to you? You sit and remember this guy who used to be obsessed with hair and so you take a second trying to remember how you know him only to finally recall that he is a book character and not someone that you’ve ever met in real life. Anyway, I hope you get what you mean.

This is a story about four friends; Dina, Ishvar, Om and Maneck who are forced together due to circumstances. They come from different backgrounds but they end up forming an odd yet enduring friendship that helps them weather the storms. The story is set in India in the 1970s. There is a background story of the political climate at that time. I don’t know much about India’s history but some of the other readers have commented that the politics are based on real events and the female prime minister is inspired by a politician who ruled that country during that time.

This book tackles so many difficult themes. One that stood out for me is the caste system that assigns social status to citizens. The lives of the lower castes are so depressingly portrayed in this book. The suffering is unimaginable. The caste is not allowed to do some jobs or even vote. It seems like they don’t have basic rights even the right to life. There are stories of life in slums. This reminded me of Slumdog Millionaire. The human suffering depicted through the pages is unimaginable. At some point, it was getting frustrating because it seemed unending. I kept looking for the light but the darkness prevailed through each chapter. I guess that’s life though.

A Fine Balance by Rohinston Mistry is the kind of book that I recommend to everyone. It is very well written; the prose is poignant, flawless, compelling. It is just beautiful. The characterization is great. The characters are so well developed that it is hard to forget them. However, it is only fair that I warn you that this book is heart wrenching. It will mess with your emotions and it may make you cry. It angered me. Life can be unfair and humans can be heartless. However, the question of a fine balance was thought provoking. How do you stay sane in a crazy, cold world when life is continuously throwing punches at you? I think this is a perfect book-club read due to all the discussion points. If you are not in a book-club, you can still read it and perhaps try to work-out the answers and let me know so that we can discuss it.

Review: Flesh and Blood (DI Amy Winter #4) Caroline Mitchell

A wave of apparent suicides hits a string of seaside resorts, but when a police officer is named as the latest to die, DI Amy Winter suspects there may be more than mere coincidence to these tragic deaths. But what dark motive could cause someone to throw themselves into the cold depths of the North Sea?

Someone in the community knows more than they are letting on, but Amy’s questions are met with resistance. A group of mysterious teenagers might hold the key, but why are they so afraid to talk? Meanwhile, after the release from prison of her serial killer mother, Amy is fighting her own demons.

In her toughest investigation yet, Amy must confront her dark past if she is to put an end to the carnage. What secret is so terrible that it’s worth killing a police officer for? Amy needs to find the answer, before the sea washes up any more bodies.

Review

DI Amy Winter is back! In this installment, Amy and her team travel down to a Seaside town where a series of suicides are starting raise red flags. The detectives suspect that there is more to the story especially when a police officer becomes the latest victim.

This was quite a complex case with red herrings abound. The Seaside setting is interesting. A picturesque town that draws seasonal tourists sounds like a happy place, right? So why would anyone travel there to die? What made the police officer, a wife and mother of two, take a plunge into sea in the dead of the night? I had so many questions and enjoyed my time with the detectives as we worked together in search of answers.

The character development in this series just keeps getting better. I enjoyed getting to know Molly better. She is one of the detectives in Amy’s team who takes a bigger role in this case. As usual, Amy’s character and complex background is always compelling. In this story, her serial killer parents are not so much in the forefront although there are mentions. However, we get an angle about her sister that I found to be quite captivating and emotional.

Flesh and Blood is yet another captivating read by the author. It captured my attention from the first to the last page. Some news about the lead character at the end of the story caught me by surprise. I can’t wait to see how her story develops in the next installment.