Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Fine Balance


A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is simply one of the best books I've ever read. It is that rare book that consumes me, is in my thoughts when I'm away from it, that pushes me to learn more about its subject matter, that quite simply moves me.

A Fine Balance begins when four people come together at a small apartment in a large city in India by the sea in 1975, a time of tremendous upheaval in India. We get to know each character at length, their family, their background, what motivates them and what ultimates brings them to this apartment. As these four people come to know one another and appreciate each other and ultimately love one another we witness their journey. It is a journey of misery and sadness, fear and destruction, but also of hope and humanity and the very basic will to survive. Make no mistake - this is not a happy book. After thinking about the characters all day at work, I settled down to read the last 50 pages and I found myself hesitating, because as much as I was wanted to know what became of them all, I was afraid of what horrors they might have yet to face. It seemed they had suffered enough. Yet through it all, these people retained their sense of humor, positive outlook, and their hearts full of kindness. And for those who have read this book, the last two pages did me in. How can I feel so much for these characters who aren't even real, yet are, because they are a representation of a reality that is so difficult to fathom.

It's difficult to come away from a book such as this, since right now nothing else can live up to its standards, or could be as satisfying. I certainly plan to read more by this author in the future. I had already been planning on reading this book, but I thank all who suggested it to me when I was looking for books about India. You game me that little extra push I needed.

19 comments:

Lisa said...

This is a great review. Thanks for sharing it. I've always been fascinated by India. I think I'll check this one out.

LisaMM said...

Hi Tara, I read this when it was an Oprah selection years ago and felt much the same way you did. Great book, great review!

Iliana said...

Wonderful review Tara. I agree, this book is consuming. I felt at a loss when I finished reading it. It was so powerful. I have another of his books waiting in the stacks.

Lazy cow said...

Another book blogger has spoken highly of this and told me I must read it, and with your glowing recommendation it's been pushed higher up the list (I was planning on reading it this year, when I bought a copy).

BooksPlease said...

I haven't heard of this book before, but your review makes me want to read it. It's almost an anti-climax finishing such a book because as you say nothing could be as good or as satisfying - I need a gap before reading the next book.

Tara said...

Lisa, thanks. I have too - been fascinated by India, and I have some more books set in India on my stacks.

LisaMM, you know, I don't remember this being an Oprah selection - though my copy has that sticker - when I looked it up I see that she chose it in November 2001 - the same month I had my daughter. Makes sense now that I had no idea!

Iliana, that is it exactly - I feel such a loss. When writing my review I kept opening it randomly and rereading passages...I miss the characters. I have his book Family Matters on my stack now.

Lazy cow, I hope you enjoy it!

Booksplease, thank you for saying so. My current read is just not satisfying me, as you say.

heather (errantdreams) said...

Hey there. I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know how much I've enjoyed your take on books and cooking.

Bookfool said...

I just got a copy of this one! Yay! So glad to know you loved it.

Tara said...

Heather, thank you!

Bookfool, oh good! I will look forward to your thoughts.

melanie said...

again, a fabulous review! i was undecided about this until now.
Thanks!!

Eva said...

Wow-this one sounds really good. I'll have to wait until I'm ready for sadness though.

Literary Feline said...

Such a great review, Tara! Thank you. I hope to read this one. I've had it on my shelf for a little while now. It took a friend of mine a year to get through this book and I think that's part of the reason I keep putting off reading it. Silly, I know, but true.

LK said...

I have had this book for several years (even started it at one point), but I've never committed to it. You are inspiring me to put it on my list.

Tara said...

Melanie, thank you.

Eva, I know what you mean - I was ready for something a bit more upbeat after this.

Literary Feline, Wow, a year! That's interesting, I just couldn't wait to get back to it every evening.

LK, oh, good, I really hope you enjoy it.

Kay said...

I'm so glad you read this. I have recommended it to so many people and don't remember if I did so to you or not. May have. Anyway, it has stayed with me for years and years. I did a special "Kay's favorite reads" deal for my library book group and included this book. One woman read it and came back to me just enthusing about it.

You wrote a great review!

Karen said...

I've had that book on my wishlist for years and can't think why I haven't moved it up, bought a copy and read it yet. After your review I must.

Les said...

I read this when it first came out (gosh, maybe in 1996 or so?) and absolutely loved it! I can still picture the characters in various settings. It was a fabulous book and I hope to read Family Matters sometime soon. It's been on my shelf for far too long. Great review.

Danielle said...

Sheesh--after this review I am going to have to buy this book amd read it soon! I was actually looking at a used copy just last week, but couldn't decide. Now I wish I would have bought it!

Tara said...

Kay, I will be recommending it too, for a long time. Not only was it a great book, but I learned so much about India and want to know more.

Karen, I'd love to know what you think of it.

Les, I am still thinking about the characters myself, and wondering what (or if) they're doing now, I imagine I will for a long time. I just picked up Family Matters myself.

Danielle, I hope it is still there - at HPB??