This is the second book I've read with dailylit.com, and it was a totally different experience than the first. I read War and Peace in installments beThis is the second book I've read with dailylit.com, and it was a totally different experience than the first. I read War and Peace in installments because I figured, from having attempted it before, that I wouldn't finish it and I'm happy to say Daily Lit was able to keep me on track and get me through to the end.
A Room With A View was another matter entirely. I loved the story, the writing and the characters but didn't enjoy reading it in installments at all. I always wanted more and was irritated by having to stop at the end of the sections. I longed for pages to turn. It's a delightful book, but delightful books need covers and pages which Daily Lit could not supply.
The story has a young woman and her chaperone visiting Italy, where they become friends with other tourists at their hotel. One young man traveling with his father take liberties with the young woman, but she and her chaperone decide to speak to no one about it and to simply pretend it never happened.
They return to their home in England and life carries on as usual with our heroine becoming engaged to a rather pompous man, and I use the term "man" loosely. He's really quite a jerk. Things get complicated when the other man, the liberty-taking young man from Italy, moves into the neighbourhood. I won't tell you any more except to say that it's very entertaining.
Here are a couple of my favourite lines:
“I see you looking down your nose and thinking your mother's a snob. But there is a right sort and a wrong sort, and it's affectation to pretend there isn't."
“…in which people who care for one another are painted chatting together about noble things--a theme neither sensual nor sensational, and therefore ignored by the art of to-day.”
I particularly like that last one because it so nicely explains my problem with modern publishing. I don't want every book I read to focus on the sensual or sensational, but that's what sells so that's what gets published. There are exceptions of course, but not many. I guess that's why I end up reading so many older books. But back to the matter at hand...
I saw a fairly recent movie made from this book and liked it, but the book itself is a thousand times better. I have to get a copy soon and read it again when I can hold it in my hands and turn pages all I want. This one is a keeper and I want it on my shelf.
This novel, set in 1970's India, is about four strangers whose paths cross and bring them to a place where they become important parts of each othersThis novel, set in 1970's India, is about four strangers whose paths cross and bring them to a place where they become important parts of each others lives. There is Maneck, a college student figuring out what he wants to do with his life; Ishvar and his nephew, Om, two tailors trying to make a living that will keep them off the streets; and Dina, a strong-willed widow, desperate to make a life for herself out from under the thumb of her domineering brother.
I found it a struggle to get through this book. It wasn't the writing, the plot or the characters, but the hopelessness that got to me. The horror was endless. Any time things appeared to be improving for any of the characters, another shockingly awful thing would happen to ruin it. The title "A Fine Balance" comes from a line in the book: "You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair." All I saw was despair, and though I hoped right up to the last page that there would be some kind of satisfaction for at least one character, it was not to be.
I'm not saying it's not worth reading. The writing is straightforward, uncluttered and easy to read. The characters are well constructed and completely credible. The way Mistry brings India to life is nothing short of staggering; you can smell it, hear it, see it, feel it. It was just too much for me. The cruelty, the torture, the rape, the disgusting attitudes toward and treatment of women, the killing, and the lying, cheating police, landlords, politicians, businessmen, spiritual leaders and even train conductors were sickening. Corruption is a way of life on every page and it is brutal. I was outraged at the injustice, as I should be, but there was no relief from it. Another line from the book summed it up for me: "Life seemed so hopeless, with nothing but misery for everyone...". It was agonizing.
I feel guilty about my response to it because I believe we need books that reveal the world's uncomfortable truths, and I have read my share of them. I just didn't find the balance in "A Fine Balance". I've never been so exhausted at the end of a book. It affected me deeply and I'd never recommend you not read it. If I had read it at a different time in my life would I have reacted differently? Maybe, probably, but I'll never know.