Books and Reviews at Greenberry House

Like most booksellers, reading is a large part of my life here at Greenberry House. I have a special old chair, so worn that it sags, where I love to curl up with a good book. Old favorites, exciting new writers, spiritual or challenging, fiction or fact; all pass through my hands and many are worthy of comment. I plan an occasional mention here of a recent book I've read, either to recommend or to warn!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Fine Balance

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, Vintage International Books, 1997.

I have read a few books recently, all fiction, about India. The last was an entertaining and comic novel about a modern Indian girl's search for "a nice boy" to marry. Even though it was funny, there were some disturbing themes, in the lack of control the young woman felt regarding her life and future.

Mistry's book, also often funny but overshadowed by repeated tragedy, also brings out the theme of lack of control. The four main characters are born in different castes and in different parts of India and are all searching for better lives. They come together through strange circumstances and work together to make a future for themselves, but repeatedly their lives are shattered by events beyond their control. Government corruption is a major offender in this dark world and poverty batters the lives of all of the characters in the novel. The story is set in the mid-1970s, during the "State of Emergency".

What was appealing to me about this book was how four ordinary people somehow managed to rise above the tragedies of their individual lives and reach out to each other and to others around them, some even less fortunate than themselves. The main characters learned to respect each other despite appearances and differences, and the struggle to survive sometimes brought out the best as well as the worst in even the minor characters.

The plot is a beautifully woven tapestry of intertwined lives and loves. Occasionally the story is horrifying, then comically shattering before it soars. The truths in this novel run deep, revealing the changing attitudes toward individuality and personal worth in a culture in turmoil. The depth of the human spirit in a world made up of beggers, murderers, extortionists alongside ordinary people just trying to get by is a fascinating and rich portrait of a culture and time painted by a master.

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  • At 1:13 AM, September 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am right now reading 'A Fine Balance' - just into the first few chapters of the book and what you've said in your review is evident.

    PS: Reached here from shelfari.

  • At 10:21 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have completed 'A fine balance' and your review is a very close match of what I feel about the book.

    All the tragedies, events and happenings are things that happen in India, reported in newspapers too, but not likely to the same set of people. Perhaps as an author one has license to put them together.

    Horrifying, comically shattering, soaring - seem to be apt adjectives.

    often funny but overshadowed by repeated tragedy, also brings out the theme of lack of control.
    I agree with you fully.

  • At 10:46 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Do you have an account on Shelfari?


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