Sunday, 29 May 2005

A fine balance

Listening to:

Summertime, performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Definitely one of the best performances of this standard I’ve ever heard. Fitzgerald and Armstrong bring out a beautiful melancholy in the song.

Just read:

Rohinton Mistry, A fine balance.

This is a finely written, compelling novel about four disparate characters in 1970s Bombay. Mistry unfolds quite a saga, drawing the characters together, and gradually making friends of them. This makes for a satisfying read, and there are plenty of obstacles to be overcome as they get there.

Some of the obstacles are within the characters, but a significant number are caused by the deprivation, poverty and exploitation that are unavoidable parts of life in ’70s Bombay. Not having any experience of the time or place, I can’t vouch for its accuracy, but the depiction in this novel makes it seem very real, and quite fascinating. (Yes, a horrid fascination in some ways, but a fascination nonetheless.)

I read this novel with my heart often in my mouth, worried that the author was not going to let his characters have a happy ending. This is a sign of good writing, and it is a good novel. However, I finished it feeling annoyed that Mistry did eventually dispose of his characters in what seemed a rather callous and capricious manner.

Comments

I have just read Mistry's "A Fine Balance". I understand why he is heralded as the India's Dickens. I have spent some time in India and therefore could understand and believe some of the horrible accounts of the poverty, exploitation and the corruption. I was disappointed, however, that the book could not "balance" with at least one of the main characters becoming fulfilled inspite of the great setbacks and tragedies that beset them all.

I presently live and work in Jamaica, W.I.

Posted by: Jonathan Burke at August 9, 2005 02:03 AM