Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Fine Read

I have to admit I was daunted by the size of A Fine Balance. I like finishing the better part of a book in one sitting which could last up to six to eight hours and then return later to finish what it left. Tentatively, I started to read. I could not get past page three and was not even sure I wanted to return. Many months later, I borrowed it again and yet again failed to make it past the first few pages. Despite being a laborious read there was an unmistakable tone of authenticity about this book that made me persist. It was good thing because the third time proved lucky.

I made it past the ten page barrier with grim determination. Chapter two and beyond flowed effortlessly. My experience with reading this book reminds me of childbirth. It is a horrific struggle to bear just under nine dols of pain, you feel like your body can take no more and yet it is just a little bit more that leads to deliverance and joy of motherhood.

Despite the use of Bollywood-ish flourishes, this is a book I am glad I read. Mistry puts a human face to the grime, squalor, poverty and over-population that a lot of us either seek to escape or have indeed escaped. He tells his story with such brutal honesty that it will deeply trouble the conscience of any bourgeois Indian.

4 comments:

ggop said...

HC,
So relieved to know I am not the only one with the ten page barrier. I haven't been able to read A Suitable Boy. You have inspired me to try again.

A Fine Balance was a very authentic story. I've read it years ago. I recall feeling very hopeless at the end of the book I was annoyed with Mistry and writers in general :-)..I recall wondering why authors are "scared" of a happy ending..he had to make life truly miserable for the central character. Perhaps they are scared of giving it a H/Bollywood ending..

-gg

SFGary said...

You are more persistent than I am. If I can't get past 10 pages the book eventually makes its way to the bookshelf and eventually into a box in the basement - I have quite a collection. Some writers just grab my attention from the beginning and others not at all, including Mr. Rushdie. I have yet to take one of his books past the first chapter.

Heartcrossings said...

ggop - Mine is usually the 50 page barrier for something the size of A Fine Balance. Mr Mistry unfortunately got off to a terrible start posing thereby a challenge to my 50 page test :)

sfg - Mr Rushdie is a very challenging author to read. I would highly recommend Haroun and the Sea of Stories. It is short and sweet and unlike anything else he has written. The Jaguar Smile is nice too. I have a whole list of books that I will never be able to finish and I don't even want to try. The 10 page limit is very realistic for most books.

SFGary said...

I'll give it a shot but if I can't get through them I'll blame you.