Saturday, November 11, 2017

Mistry, Rohinton (A Fine Balance)

It's probably been a very long while since I read a book that is both utterly engaging and downright upsetting at the same time. What I mean by that is that I had to force myself to put the book down, but every 100 pages or so (it's a long book) something horrific would happen and it would shock me enough that I was in a state of constant worry as I continued reading.

OK, this makes it sound like it will cause you too much stress to read the book. That's not your takeaway here - the book is phenomenally well written (or I wouldn't have wanted to keep reading). How much do you know about 1970s India during the time of Indira Gandhi's reign? What Mistry does is use that as a backdrop for the lives of 4 main characters and a host of additional (but not minimally described) characters. I'm fairly certain his main goal is to provide insight into what Gandhi's reign did to India and its peoples. But it isn't the only one.

And that's where I lack the required knowledge to really understand his intent with respect to one particular character. I won't give away which one (and if you read the book, you'll know which one I mean), but I would venture to say that he gives three of the main characters happy endings (sure, you can call them "happy enough" endings) but one character a distinctly unhappy ending. I am under the impression that this has nothing to do with Gandhi's reign, but more to do with each character's upbringing. And in that case, what impression should I leave with? How does that fit into the story?

I certainly don't want my noodling to dissuade you from reading the book. If I don't get all of Mistry's intentions, the writing is far and away a good reason to read it.

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