Posts Tagged With: 1970s

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

I’m not really sure how to write this review…this is an absolutely wonderful book, and I really want to try and do it justice.

Set in Mumbai in the 1970s when India has been declared in a State of Emergency by the Prime Minister Indira Ghandi, it tells the story of four people who are brought together, and the effect that the relationships between them have on their lives.  Dina Dalal is a widow, fiercely independent and determined to support herself, rather than rely on her brother’s financial help, or get remarried.

Ishvar and Omprakash (Om) are tailors from a low caste, who seek work in Mumbai and find themselves working for Dina.

Maneck is a young man, brought up in a loving family in the mountains, who comes to the city to attend college and needs a room to rent.

All of them are from very different backgrounds, but are thrown together as they try to make lives for themselves during what is a very difficult period in India.

The first half of the book centres on the histories of the characters and tells how they came to find themselves in their respective situations.  The second half concentrates more on the bond between the four of them, and the trials that they face as individuals and as a group.

There is also much in the book about life in India at the time, and how difficult it was for so many citizens.

I adored this book.  Each character was so beautifully drawn that I felt that I really knew them, and I certainly came to care very much about them.  The descriptions of some of the horrors that took place were gut wrenching and very distressing to read about – all the more so, because I was aware that such things really did happen.  It certainly made me realise how lucky I am to have the freedoms and privileges that most of the time we all take for granted.  This is a tale of a population which has been failed by it’s government – and when the rulers of a land can’t abide by their own rules, how can anyone else be expected to?  I could only read with trepidation as some of the characters seemed to be drawn along a road that could only lead to heartache.

There are a number of other characters who are relatively minor, but all of whom were fleshed out and were entirely believable.

The writing was beautiful – so eloquent, but also very accessible.  The location and time were really brought to life.

At no point did I get bored – I just wanted to read on and learn more about the lives of these fascinating people, and the ending when it came, took my breath away.

This is a wonderfully written, warm and absorbing read – very highly recommended indeed.  (Don’t be put off by the length – you may well wish it was even longer!)

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Gringa in a Strange Land by Linda Dahl

This beautifully written novel tells the story of approximately one year in the life of Erica Mason, a 23 year old American girl who has been living in Mexico for two years. Set in the 1970s, while America and the world was still suffering from the effects of the Vietnam war, and at a time when the world is changing (women’s lib movement, gay rights and legal abortion), this book powerfully captures the spirit of the time, as well as showing the reader Erica’s own personal experiences.

Erica initially moved to Mexico to hopefully develop as an artist, and to find out who she really was and who she wanted to be. Living in Merida, in the Yucatan part of Mexico, she finds many distractions – in the form of drugs, unsuitable men and the poverty surrounding her – which hinder her ability to work on her art or herself. Indeed Erica realises that far from being a social indulgence, the drugs she takes are becoming an addiction to her, especially the Quaaludes (downers) which she takes to calm her.

Linda Dahl describes the lifestyle in Mexico at the time in question, with real skill, so that the sights, sounds and scents which surrounded Erica seemed to almost jump off the page. Dahl apparently spent a lot of time in Mexico in the 1970s, and it certainly shows in this book, with an authentic feel of the place, and especially of the Yucatan area where Erica spends much of her time. The people of the area and their culture are portrayed with great understanding.

Erica herself is also portrayed wonderfully, so that she becomes a character who the reader cannot help but care about and empathise with, as she struggles with her journey through life, in the hope of finding peace with herself.

This is a character driven rather than a plot driven book. The reader sees the world through Erica’s eyes, and becomes well acquainted with her friends and the people who pass through her life.

The story paints a vivid portrait of a young woman in turmoil, in a country facing many problems, at a turbulent time for the world. Highly recommended.

PUBLISHED BY: http://www.rdrpublishers.com

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.lindadahl.com/

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