A Fine Balance is an excellent book, which details the lives of four main characters struggling to survive in 1970s India. My interest was hooked as soon as I started reading, and I remained fascinated throughout. The characterization is top-notch, the descriptions are vivid, and the prose is very good. I also learned from this book, which does an enviable job of bringing an era to life.
And yet, I find myself without much to say about this book. I agree with the most common criticism, that it is simply too tragic, to the point that I disconnected emotionally because I realized the characters' lives were simply terrible misfortunate followed by even more terrible misfortune. No one would argue that being poor in India is easy, but the two tailors in particular get an extraordinary amount of abuse, to the point that a minor character (who's not exactly rolling in money himself) comments that he could write a book about it. There's a brief almost-happy period in the middle of the book (and the way the main characters bond to become a sort of family for a brief time really is touching), but overall it's just too much. Although the book is excellent in many ways, I'm not sure if I would actually recommend it; thus, 4 stars.