I read A Fine Balance back in summer 2005 and I carted it everywhere, despite it being a 650 page novel, it flows with ease and Mistry’s prose is utterly beguiling.
It’s mid seventies India and the government has declared a state of emergency, poverty is rife and people are being killed due to riots. In this political mess two tailors, a university student and a disillusioned widow all end up living together in a house. All characters come from different social classes and Mistry highlights the differences between each person through flashbacks and the present situation of all four people . That is until the political situation leads to a devastating climax.
Readers beware this is not a novel filled with happiness, each character has his or her own spell of bad luck but Mistry is never self-indulgent and there are quite a few laugh out loud (and even rude) moments in A Fine Balance. Despite this it is a truly addictive novel. What kept me going was the sheer power and simplicity of the writing. Mistry creates a scene so realistic that you’d imagine every scene in your head perfectly and his way with words is just makes one emote.
For such a thick book I am writing a short review but trust me a lot goes on in this dynamic novel and it’s rather you pick it up. Weirdly enough I have read this author’s other novels (and short story collection) and none of them really live up to this one (although Family Matters comes very close) so if you’re a beginner do read this one first.