My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A Fine Balance tells the story of India in 1975, during the state of emergency, when the opponents of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (who is never mentioned by name) are jailed and Gandhi’s son, Sanjay Gandhi, spearheads a forced sterilization campaign in an attempt to deal with overpopulation.
The story looks at cultural sexism, religious prejudice, the caste system, and police corruption from the perspective of the poor and lower middle class. It touches on the lives of some wealthier individuals, but only briefly, looking primarily at their opinions of the poor.
The publisher's description states that the novel has “a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens.” Like Dickens, Rohinton Mistry focuses on the underprivileged and like Dickens, his style includes numerous minor characters who keep reappearing throughout his story and plot twists that depend on coincidence.
The title comes from a character referred to as “the proofreader.” He states, “You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.” The scales seem to weigh heavier on the latter of those two choices, but the book is well worth reading. The ending is particularly engrossing. I couldn't put it down.
Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross.
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