Om, Ishvar and Maneck

After a wander along the Regents canal, from Mile End to the Limehouse basin, and along to Canary Wharf before sliding home on the rollercoaster-esque DLR I sat down and read the last 200 odd pages of a fine balance by Rohinton Mistry.  I didn’t do this because I couldn’t put it down, although clearly I couldn’t, I did it because I wanted to be let free from the despair that this book had pulled me into.  But even after closing the back cover, I’m still there.

following on from Salman Rushdie’s Midnights children and the Moors Last Sigh (my favourite of the two), a fine balance was my third book telling of life on the sub-continent.  I know hardly anything about India, and nothing about the time of the ’emergency’ which these books dive into and describe in visceral detail.

However I knew that Om and Ishvar would be characters that would be engrained on my memory, their lives are relentlessly buffeted by their country and I cannot think of them as anything other than heroes for enduring the almost endless suffering that they are subjected to, intersped with moments of peace and sometimes hope.  These moments are brought about by other characters, such as Dina Aunty and Shankar who all face the same endless struggle in very different ways.  But right at the end Om and Ishvar were joined by Maneck, who I don’t think I ever understood throughout the book, but whose feelings of helplessness and impotence I realised when it was too late.

I have struggled a bit with what to say about the book, I agree with most of the reviews on amazon that it is a great great book, but for me it’s greatness has come from the feelings that it has left with me with, which are so strong and bleak, that they have left me being unable to say almost anything about the book itself, and also struggling to move onto my next read.


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