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.


ggop said...

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..


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.