I’ve been recommended Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance many-a-time over the past few years. Firstly by a friend Laura who I interned with at the beginning of my time in London, then by one of my best friend’s Sarah, who was taught English by Mistry’s wife when living in Tortonto; and lastly by my friend Jack – with whom I attempted to start a workplace book club while working for a creative agency in East London. I’m not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading it; I’ve had a copy for almost two years now, and having backpacked around India as a wanderlusting teen with big hopes for a bright future, it’s always been a country I’ve loved reading about.
It was only recently – after filling out one of those online quizzes that promises to inform you how well-read you are that I decided to finally read it. While I’d read 81 of the 100 books listed on the quiz, instead of seeing my result as that of a longstanding reader, I was aghast at the fact that there were 19 books I hadn’t read; A Fine Balance being one of them.
I started it one bright and breezy morning in Bondi – remembering my A-Level English teacher’s advice when it came to all things literary; when beginning a book, one must always read for at least an hour.
The type of tome that enthrals you from the very start, A Fine Balance is a beautifully written novel, with a legion of fans all over the globe; indeed it was only after I began reading it and posting about it on my Instagram that I learnt just how many people had been moved by Mistry’s poignant tale of Urban India.
The story follows four main characters – widowed Dina Dalal, tailors Ishvar Darji and his nephew Omprakash Darji, and young student Maneck Kohlah who form an unlikely bond when circumstances see them living together in a small flat in an unidentified Indian city. Set against the backdrop of India’s two-year emergency the tale is an intricate one, that weaves political unrest and prejudice as the novels progresses.
Breathtakingly beautiful, heartbreaking and masterfully written, A Fine Balance is about as perfect as a novel can get. The sort of story that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page, it’s little wonder that so many readers love this tale quite as fiercely as they do.
About A Fine Balance
Set in mid-1970s India, A Fine Balance is a subtle and compelling narrative about four unlikely characters who come together in circumstances no one could have foreseen soon after the government declares a ‘State of Internal Emergency’. It is a breathtaking achievement: panoramic yet humane, intensely political yet rich with local delight; and, above all, compulsively readable.
About Rohinton Mistry
Rohinton Mistry was born in 1952 and grew up in Bombay, India, where he also attended university. In 1975 he emigrated to Canada, where he began a course in English and Philosophy at the University of Toronto. He is the author of three novels and one collection of short stories. His debut novel, Such a Long Journey, won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book and the Governor General’s Award, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It was made into an acclaimed feature film in 1998. His second novel, A Fine Balance, won many prestigious awards, including the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction and the Giller Prize, as well as being shortlisted for the Booker Prize, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize. His collection of short stories, Tales from Firozsha Baag, was published in 1987.In 2002 Faber published Mistry’s third novel, Family Matters, which was longlisted for the 2002 Man Booker Prize.
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