Saturday, December 12, 2009

Non-Canadian Can Lit

For the first time in this challenge I have read a book which is difficult to fit into the Canadian canon. That isn't saying that Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance isn't good, it's great in fact, just that it doesn't take place in Canada, never mentions Canada and generally doesn't feel Canadian (whatever that means). That being said I am glad Rohinton Mistry, born in Bombay but a resident of Canada since 1975, is part of the Canadian literary scene. His novel provides depth to many of the themes that have already appeared in this blog, particularly to themes of family and history/memory.

A Fine Balance tells the story of four individuals whose lives are brought together under the roof of one apartment. Dina, a widowed woman who runs a small sewing company; Ishvar and his orphaned nephew Om, Dina's employees; and Maneck, the son of one of Dina's childhood friends who has come to the big city for university. The novel is epic, not just because of its 700 page length, but because of its abilities to tell the beautiful and tragic story of the four characters against the backdrop of a nation (India) going through enormous changes. The novel touches on numerous themes, but for me the most poignant was Mistry's ability to re-define definitions of family, even in unusual and often difficult surroundings.

In turned out that the length was not an obstacle at all (I have a phobia of long books). The story and writing style flowed and the next thing I knew I was hundreds of pages in. The biggest hurdle was that anytime I mentioned to someone that I was reading A Fine Balance, I heard about how sad the novel was. I grew a bit worried- how depressing would this be? And it was sad, tragic even. Just as long as you don't mind getting a little teary eyed on the TTC, this book is a must read.


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