A Fine Balance
David O'Connor Thompson writes this about himself:
"Every writer needs a shed somewhere to retreat to, or so I have discovered. I have written to earn my crust all my working life, first in advertising then on anything that I could lay my hands that would pay. For the last couple of years I have been struggling to write novels. I have two on the go, one fully blocked out but the other, the one that most engages me, is wrestling back. At the moment it seems to be winning. I put it down to the fact that my shed is at the end of my bedroom. It is not a workspace and, consequently, I find that instead of buckling down I at present just buckle. However, I have a plan, to be revealed here, at my blog.
My OneBook is A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. I stumbled on it by chance in an Oxfam shop and have rejoiced in the fact ever since. It is an astounding book in its breadth, its narrative and characterisation.
Set in India, from the days of its partition to some 30 years later but concentrating in particular on the emergency years of 1975-1977, the story follows the fortunes of two untouchables, Ishvar and his nephew, Omprakash, as they move from their home village to Mumbai to seek work. There they meet Dina and her student lodger, Maneck, where life changes but doesn’t necessarily improve.
Mistry employs his characters to illustrate the terrible struggles of the sub-continent as it comes to terms with the responsibilities of its independence. He spares the reader no detail in his description of the brutalities arising out of the caste system, appalling poverty, religious intolerance and the social engineering exercises of the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi. It is, sometimes, too much to bear. However, if there is one quality that carries the reader along, it is the indefatigable optimism of the book's two main protagonists, Ishvar and Omprakash. Though never shying from reality, Mistry reveals himself to be, at heart, a humanist who believes in the indomitable spirit of mankind.
Everyone to whom I have lent my copy of A Fine Balance has been equally struck by the power of this novel. It is, to repeat myself, simply an astounding piece of writing.