Friday, August 29, 2008

A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry - A Review

I have just finished reading 'A Fine Balance' by Rohinton Mistry and though not the one to do book reviews I find it impossible to not talk about this book. At 600 odd pages the book might seem like an onerous read but it is not. Once you start reading you never know how time flies but only revel in how wonderfully the writer etches out the lives of each of the four characters and seamlessly integrates them to give us a masterpiece of a book.

The book is set in 1975 Indira Gandhi’s regime at the time of the emergency and is set in an “unnamed place by the sea” and it takes you little time to figure out that the author is talking about Bombay. And it talks about the lives of four people (two tailors, a widow and a student) who are innocent victims of the emergency, and how they co-exist under the same roof. Mistry defines the lives and background of each of the four characters beautifully and spends a lot of time building up the plot. By the time the book ends you don’t complain about the size of the book but wish there was more to read.

This is one book which can make you sit up and think. There are many parts in the book where you will go “Chiiii, disgusting!!” and you will try flipping pages to reach a good part and ignore the bad part when a small voice inside you will tell you that however disgusting it is and how much ever you try to ignore it, it is true and your not reading it wont change it. You realize that though the characters are fictitious their lives and stories are those of real people.

It portrays India in its rawest form, telling us about its villages, telling us horrific stories about how the lower castes were/are oppressed by the upper castes, telling us about the unscrupulous politicians, corrupt police officers, life in the chawls of Bombay. I could just keep going on. Mistry is such a wonderful storyteller that at many points in the book you find yourself almost pleading Mistry to make the protagonists have a happy life. The book is painful, depressing, sad, thought provoking and is bloody brilliant.

There is a particular line in the book where the widow asks someone if she should inform the police, which will always stay with me.

This is the conversation between them.

“Should I make a complaint to the police” asked Dina.
He gave her a weary look. “If you like. But you might as well complain to that crow on the window.” The bird cawed and flew away, he felt vindicated.

The sarcasm, light humor and irony of the line hits you right on the face

After shantaram this is one book which I badly wanted to write a review about. After kite runner this is one book which has made me cry, after thousand splendid suns this is one book which has made me empathize with the characters and after a long long time a book has made me sit up three nights in a row to complete it and I don’t regret it.

Do NOT pick this book up if you are looking for some light reading because this book will make you brood and think and give u sleepless nights, making your question your own insensitivity and blissful ignorance to so many crying issues in this country. This book gives you the raw truth the way no other book does.

Waiting to read Family Matters by Mistry

11 comments:

rvnrahul said...

ok.. since u're talking bout books I'll be nice.. :P

Lovely review.. makes me want to read it, in fact makes me want to read it so bad that i might just steal it from u..

waise if as u say it beats shantaram in giving sleepless nights then its worth a read.. I've only had sleepless nights by a few books, shantaram, The Fountain head, Eleven minutes :P, Astrix, and umm some 'other category' books.. :P

good review.. can i borrow it?? seriously??

Jaya S said...

You've reviewed the book beautifully...just a hint of what it is all about, arousing everybody's curiosity. But depressing? How long does it linger on in one's head?

Niveditha said...

ahhhhhhhhh..
the more i read about the book the more i wanna read it... its been quite sometime since i went to the library... :(

sreeramshenoy said...

I will NOT read this...I bet I will never finish it...

PS: Tooo much of truth is too bad, hic!! ;)

Savita said...

Thanks for this really great review... Just the kind of book I love to read... Now I know what to buy when I go book-shopping..

Sheks said...

A similar review would fit in for Maximum City--Bombay Lost and found.Thanks for the review.

Do NOT pick this book up if you are looking for some light reading..You mentioned 600 pages..it's obviously going to be a heavy book.

Shantaram,Kite Runner,1000 splendid suns...when are you gonna read Wodehouse's school stories? Check out this book review from cricinfo. http://content-uk.cricinfo.com/magazine/content/current/story/360708.html

R@hul said...

The most striking thing to me is this:

This book is probably very good. So is Shantaram. Why? The characters? The plot? Yes. Its all there. But imagine replacing the city Mumbai with some other... say Delhi or Chennai for that matter. And poof! The charm is gone. That is the pt of connection between author and reader.

The Maximum City... Mumbai... THAT captures the imagination more than anything else.

Factor in the number of people you've met who've lived and loved Mumbai.... and you see the complete picture.

Mumbai's magic will always be there... to be picked up as and when it pleases an author's hands and a reader's eyes.

Think carefully and answer it for yourself.... was it those people or what the city did to those people..?

R@hul said...

PS: Include Midnight's Children and Maximum City as well into this Mumbai list.

Revathi said...

@rahul
i borrowed the book from Arun. take it from him, beg borrow or steal but please read the book!! :)
Thanks for leaving shareef comments instead of the usual ashleel comments that u leave!! :P

@jaya
hmm. it lingers for quite some time i would say. i dunno. depends on the kind of person you are!! :)

@nive
do read it :)
Thanks for visiting

@s3
u drunk matey?? :P

@savita
Thanks for visiting. do tell me if u like it or not!! :)

@sheks
when am i going to read it?? eeeeks. should do it ASAP!!
and jeez man cant u leave a single mokkai-less comment?? :P

@rahul
for a change i completely agree with you. bombay is the kind of city where every one should live in for some time during their formative years. a beautiful city and yeah the charm amd flavor of the book would most definitely have been lost if it were set in delhi or madras.
and lots of recommensations for maximum city. hmmm. will buy that next.
Thanks for visiting!! :)

Arun said...

Revs, me votes for Maximum city too...I loved it !

Srinath S said...

i just read the book too...loved it as well..

have read family matters too..another brilliant book but a a balanced life is slightly better...

he is a wonderful author...jeez..i wish i could write like him...