Friday, July 11, 2008

Book Review: A Fine Balance

A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

This is such a beautifully narrated story, with such realism and detail, that I was grateful to simply read it. Although I cared deeply for the characters, and couldn't stop reading to find out what would happen to them, I wasn't hoping for a dramatic ending that 'solved' everything or tied up all the ends. It's not that kind of a story. But the epilogue, I found, was indeed dramatic and hard to believe.

**Spoilers Ahead**
All that Dina wants is her independence, but she ultimately has to go live with her brother, who notes that Dina's fighting spirit has been defeated. The Chamar tailors fight and undergo so much difficulty to break out of their traditional trade and become tailors, but what do they become in the end? Castrated, crippled beggars! The rent-collector also becomes a beggar. Maneck is always hurt about being separated from his family, and finally when he makes his peace with his parents, and lets the reader think he will, at least, find some contentment, he is broken by the sad states the tailors and Dina are reduced to, and commits suicide. He has no thought for his mother waiting all these years for him, her only hope.

Realism need not be all sad and depressing. Mistry shows it himself in the story, but he breaks the feeble thread of hope on which his characters survive, leaving them crippled, and precariously balanced. I simply couldn't buy Maneck's suicide, and Ishvar's losing his legs. It's unrealistic for him to wait for his legs to become nearly black before seeking medical help.
While the book seems well paced and balanced, the ending, and epilogue look forced and hurried.


Debosmita said...

Hi, I stumbled upon your blog and have been reading your posts continuously. A Fine Balance is a book I can literally swear by and though I loved those lines where you say that you were simply grateful to read it, I differ in opinion that the end was forced. I don't know why but I totally believed in the story, almost as if it was a movie happening before my eyes.

Hasmita said...

Hi Debosmita,

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I guess the difference in opinion would be based our own personalities and what we expect or hope for in the books we read? I feel a good literary novel should portray reality and, preferably, leave a thread of hope, however slender, because that's the author-reader relationship. I have read and loved books where the ending is heartbreaking, too, but in this book, the end suddenly changed pace--sped up--and all the awful stuff happens. Perhaps if it were slower and took the time to show us why and how, it would be in keeping with the rest of it.