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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.

  • Go here to read Wiki's view on the book.
  • And here to find out more about Rohinton Mistry.
  • Follow this link for an interesting article about Indian literature.
  • Get a used copy of A Fine Balance from here
  • A new copy here.


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A great OneBook David, something that I wouldn't have considered but am now intrigued to read. x

David O'Connor Thompson

Do, I urge you, but with a box tissues within reach. x

David O'Connor Thompson

Another recommendation is that Germaine Greer hates it.

“I hate this book,” she declaimed. “It’s a Canadian book about India. What could be worse? What could be more terrible?”


This was based on the fact that having 'spent some months teaching at a women's college in Bombay, she failed to recognise the poverty of the "dismal, dreary city".

In his third novel, Family Matters, which I haven't read, Mistry has his revenge with a comment about foreign critics who "come here for two weeks and become experts"


Poor Germaine, she can't get over the fact she hasn't had an original thought since The Female Eunuch and has since, and maybe as a consequence, become rather spiteful.

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