A Fine Balance is a long and painful journey to India’s Emergency in 1975, declared by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, after the High Court of Allahabad found her guilty of using illegal practices for her election campaign and unseated her from power.
The book focuses on four main characters, whose lives intersect in a period of mass sterilisation, severe censorship of the press, horrific work camps, and countless incidents of human rights violations, all in the name of the nation-wide Emergency of course, and has to be one of the most depressing and compelling books I have ever read.
Rohinton Mistry does a great job in developing lovable characters that endure indescribable terror with such strength and courage, you wish you were there for them as a friend. The plot is an epic long, detailed and full of cruelty Dickensian narrative and the climax is often too overwhelming to allow other things get in the way of just carrying on with the reading.
The prose is as simple as it gets. Is it due to the author’s writing style in general? Or are all stylistics purposely stripped from the language as unnecessary baggage to one hell of a strong story? I have no idea, but the matter of fact is that the story is that strong.
If you’re interested in an absorbing and insightful commentary on India’s politically and socially turbulent Emergency era, A Fine Balance is a must read, but prepare for misery. Which brings me to the reason why I can’t give this book five stars: Given that the characters are fictional, the unending series of tragedies that they go through and the excessive coincidences that affect them, often push them towards caricature. I mean I’m trying to empathise with the drama, I really am, but nobody suffers that much. Come on.
Still, brutally wonderful.