Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance is an extraordinary novel; one of those books I’m ashamed I haven’t read sooner, but at the same time, am so glad I’ve read at a point in my life when I can truly appreciate its magnificence. It is a timeless, masterful epic; without question, one of my favourite novels of all time, so brilliantly gripping, I couldn’t put it down until its heartbreaking final pages. I haven’t been haunted by a book like this since Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life; but I’d say the scope and architecture of A Fine Balance is even more impressive.
This is an impassioned indictment of India’s corrupt and horrifically cruel society during India’s “State of Internal Emergency” of the 1970s. Its four protagonists — Dina, in her forties, poor and widowed; her two tailors, Ishvar and his nephew Om (deemed ‘untouchable’ by the caste system); and Maneck, the son of an old School friend of Dina’s — are all victims of the times, whose sufferings are disparate, but equally devastating.
It’s so effortlessly Dickensian; virtuosically exploring grand themes with poised and measured grace. A Fine Balance is as close to perfection as a novel gets.
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