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A Fine Balance
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Readalongs > A Fine Balance (Leslie, Alice)

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Leslie | 15985 comments Both Alice and I are planning on reading this soon. Feel free to join us if you want!


dely | 5214 comments It's a very good book, I liked it a lot!


Leslie | 15985 comments Alice, are you ready to start?? I think that I will begin in the morning...


Alice Poon (alice_poon) Yes Leslie! Can't wait. But be warned: I'm a slow reader :)


Leslie | 15985 comments No problem - I can read other things alongside this :)


Leslie | 15985 comments I have read the first few chapters - I can't say how many because they aren't numbered in my edition! I am on page 47 reading about Dina and (view spoiler).

I was worried that it would take me a while to get interested but Mistry drew me into the story right away.


Alice Poon (alice_poon) Yes, me too, Leslie! His writing seems to have some magnetic power. I'm on page 194. After the first couple of chapters I had to look up what Parsi means on Wiki.


Leslie | 15985 comments I have noticed that there are some unfamiliar terms.

But you are much farther along than I am -- I thought you said you were a slow reader! (just joking) I finished up one of the books on my plate so I will have more time to focus on this now.


Alice Poon (alice_poon) As I was reading, scenes from the films "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Water" kept coming up in my mind. Those two films were my only source of information on Indian society and culture (apart from the novel & film "A Passage to India"). At one point I had to look up Wiki for information on the Indian caste system.


Leslie | 15985 comments Alice wrote: "As I was reading, scenes from the films "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Water" kept coming up in my mind. Those two films were my only source of information on Indian society and culture (apart from the..."

I know what you mean -- films and books are my main source of information too; like you far too few of them ("Slumdog Millionaire", "Ghandi", "A Passage to India", and the TV show on PBS, "Indian Summers")! I have read some Kipling but that is mostly outdated. I did read The God of Small Things but India is so large that I don't know if there is a lot of overlap in the culture portrayed in the that book with this one.


Leslie | 15985 comments I am further along now (though I haven't gotten to where you are yet) and I guess that there are numbered chapters? Or are these sections? In my print copy, each numbered part has divisions that are separated like chapters but with no heading or numbering -- maybe I will refer to those as mini-chapters.

I am now in the part about Narayan and Ishvar. Some of the aspects of life for these people (the dalits or untouchables) is so horrific that it is hard to read. I am reacting very strongly to the unfairness of the caste system and how it is integrated into the government and justice systems.


Leslie | 15985 comments Just finished Chapter V about Maneck, ending with his leaving the hostel. (page 253)

I have been caught up in each of the stories but feel like now that we have the background of the 4 (Dina, Maneck, Ishvar and Om) the real story is ready to begin!


Alice Poon (alice_poon) Now you're ahead of me Leslie - I'm on page 219 (yesterday I went out with my visiting cousin and her husband for an outing in North Vancouver, so did very little reading). I too feel that the plot is thickening.


Leslie | 15985 comments Although I had seen in "Slumdog Millionaire" how poor the sanitation and other conditions were in the slums, I keep being shocked that in the 1970s things were so bad.

It is an eye-opening book for me! And not just in terms of the infrastructure (or lack thereof) but in terms of Indira Ghandi as well. I looked up a little about her since I only knew the basics (that she was Prime Minister and had been assassinated). I had always tenatively assumed that her husband was related to Mahatma Ghandi but it turns out that isn't the case. I hadn't realized she was Nehru's daughter!


Alice Poon (alice_poon) I agree that the conditions described in the book are even worse than those scenes in "Slumdog Millionaire". I had the same reaction that the timeline of the novel is in the 1970s. Compared to the sanitary conditions that I grew up in in Hong Kong, which were repulsive enough for me (no flush toilet, feces collected in a wooden bucket placed in the bath area; sanitary napkins made from coarse tissue paper which had to be rubbed to make it softer), those described by Mistry are appalling.

I knew Indira Ghandi was Nehru's daughter, but didn't realize she was less than respected.


Leslie | 15985 comments Alice, I am sorry that I haven't been a very good reading companion -- I find it hard to read more than a chapter or two at a time because the conditions are so awful it upsets me. So even though I think that the writing is excellent, I am moving at a snail's pace...


Alice Poon (alice_poon) Sorry Leslie, I only just saw your comment (guilty - haven't checked this thread for a few days!).

It's a difficult read for me too - some scenes are really upsetting. I cried several times, and I've just finished. My copy has 713 pages. It's really long. Don't worry, you'll get there!

I've posted my review on the other AAB thread (Opinions, recommendations & reviews).


Leslie | 15985 comments I don't know if I will ever finish this -- I have less than 100 pages to go but when I picked it up today, in the chapter "Family Planning", I could only read a few pages before putting it down. (view spoiler) -- it is unrelenting in how bad things always happen.


Alice Poon (alice_poon) I know Leslie - the cruelty they endure grates on one's sensitivities. I've heard many atrocious incidents relating to China's one-child policy and the Chinese sexist mentality, so the happenings in this novel do not seem far-fetched, given the beastly Indian caste system traditions that have poisoned the human mind for thousands of years.


Leslie | 15985 comments I think it is the fact that the happenings are so believable that makes it so hard to read! This business about 'family planning' did remind me of China. While overpopulation is a serious problem for both China and India, these heavy-handed policies are just awful.


Alice Poon (alice_poon) In the case of China, I think the anti-right purge and the Cultural Revolution maimed and mutilated many souls, turning people into zombies.


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