Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

A splendid tale of contemporary India that, in chronicling the sufferings of outcasts and innocents trying to survive in the "State of Internal Emergency'' of the 1970s, grapples with the great question of how to live in the face of death and despair. This second novel is also a quietly passionate indictment of a corrupt and ineluctably cruel society. India under Indira Gandhi has become a country ruled by thugs who maim and kill for money and power. The four protagonists (all victims of the times) are: Dina, 40-ish, poor and widowed after only three years of marriage; Maneck, the son of an old school friend of Dina's; and two tailors, Ishvar and his nephew Om, members of the Untouchable caste. A sweeping story, in a thoroughly Indian setting, that combines Dickens's vivid sympathy for the poor with Solzhenitsyn's controlled outrage, celebrating both the resilience of the human spirit and the searing heartbreak of failed dreams.

Rating: 4.6 Recommend