‘A Fine Balance’ was short listed for the Booker prize in 1996, and I cannot understand why it did not win this, or even ‘The Booker of Bookers’ – it is that good!
It is hard to explain the plot, as it is so rich and complex, but basically it follows the lives of four strangers, from different sections of the Indian caste systems as they deal with life during the state of emergency in 1970’s India. The political situation is explained, so that even an outsider can understand the corruption and turmoil going on in the country. Each character is built up so well, that we feel we know them, and the surroundings are described in such a way that I imagine I’ve been there. It is not an easy read, in that many of the scenes described are disturbing, but the hardship is not dwelt upon, and it is amazing what positives can be made out of so little.
At over 600 pages long, it is not a short book, and I was originally going to criticise it for not being a page turner. I now realise that this would be the wrong thing to do. Although it is not a fast paced book, I was gripped the whole way through. If it had been a quicker read it would have lost the rich detail I loved it for.
This book changed the way I viewed many aspects of Indian society, particularly the street beggars, and I now have a greater understanding of life in India during the 1970s.
This is one of the best books I have ever read. I cannot recommend it highly enough.