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A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

A Fine Balance (1995)

by Rohinton Mistry (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,754174547 (4.38)1 / 614
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English (166)  French (2)  German (2)  Norwegian (2)  Danish (1)  All languages (173)
Showing 1-5 of 166 (next | show all)
This is one of a number of novels that were given to me by a friend after he bought a kindle and lost all interest in paper books. It had been sitting on my bookshelf for quite a few years before I recently decided to read it, having basically no idea what to expect. I'm pleased to say that I basically loved it.

'A Fine Balance' starts off slow, and has a pretty measured, relaxed pace throughout, Rohinton Mistry quite happy to just let the characters and story unfold in their own time. This can be both frustrating and boring in more mediocre books, but when in the hands of a skilled writer, results in a truly mesmerising experience. This is definitely one of the latter examples.

Set in India during the 1970s "Emergency", a state of emergency and general crackdown on civil liberties and democratic rights declared by the government after the Prime Minister was convicted of electoral fraud, 'A Fine Balance' explores this historical event (one I previously knew next to nothing about) and life in 1970s India through its fictional characters in stark and fascinating detail. While often depressing and harrowing beyond belief, the main protagonists are just so likable and well-drawn, and the minor characters varied and fascinating, that you find yourself swept from page to page, desperate to see them find a happy ending even though you suspect that they probably won't.

Its a frustrating book in many ways, one where often-times you wish you could reach into the pages and beat the everling shit out of the (often truly hateable) antagonists, and the last few chapters rank as probably some of the most depressing fiction I have ever read, yet that is also what makes this book so powerful. I don't know how historically accurate the depiction of the "Emergency" is, but if there's even a sliver of truth to it (and I imagine there's a whole lot more than a sliver), then it must have been a truly horrifying period for those who lived through it, and one that the perpetrators should be condemned for. ( )
1 vote asha.leu | Oct 20, 2015 |
This was the first gift that my girlfriend at the time (now wife) gave me, and as such, this book holds a special place in my heart.

The book itself is a no-holds-barred look at intertwining lives at a critical point in Indian history. The narration is harrowing and often bleak, but it is a genuine reflection on society and life in a country at a cross-roads. ( )
  nvenkataraman1 | Aug 23, 2015 |
This book was good, but I can't give it more than three stars because it was so depressing. It takes place in India during the state of emergency in the 1970s. It tackles a variety of social issues such as the caste system, poverty, and government corruption and at times it was just too much. Tragedy after tragedy struck every character and there were few moments of triumph. The book left me feeling that despite the good people of the world those in power will always find a way to oppress the masses and maintain the status quo. ( )
1 vote klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
I haven't cried from reading a book in a really long time, and this one did it for me. One glance at the reviews and you can see that this book doesn't have a happy ending. I'm not sure what Mistry was trying to get across with this novel, but it impacted me dramatically. Somehow his plot in this long, winding book enthralled me enough with its simple ins and outs to fall in love with the characters. Maneck and Isvhar and Om and Dina... my heart lies with the four of you.

I wish to rate this book higher than a four, but my conscience--for now--is stopping me. It was too long to suit its purpose, I think. I have no problem with long, or even very long, books, but this seemed unneccesarily so. Perhaps that is why I ended up cherishing each and every word towards the end, though. I digress.

Mistry had things to say about corruption in government, and truths to expose about living on the streets, anywhere. He also had more sentimental and romantic points to make: about time, and how elusive it is and how it is the "noose" around your neck in the end, or how human life is filled with sorrow, and suffering, and it is a wonder that we can all keep going.

For that reason, I also had a problem with this book. It seemed almost to have an excess of suffering--more than neccesary to make the point. But perhaps that is the point. Perhaps the excess is entirely intended, and meant to be maudlin. Perhaps Mistry purposely evaded what could have been many happy endings, and even went as far as to set up the possibility of their existences.

It seemed to me that the existence of love, and happiness, and togetherness is devoid in this novel. That Mistry avoided such things in order to highlight the underbelly of humanity and love. It is true that the characters come to know and to love each other, but they never fully reveal and express themselves as they 'should' to lead to a proper and more full culmination of their love. There were so many chances for letters to be sent, things explained, words exchanged, all of that.... but it never panned out. For me, at times it was too much, and I felt it did not do justice to human nature to so starkly avoid such bright concepts.

And yet here I am, drying my tears, an hour after finishing, four hours after when I intended to fall asleep for the night. I'll be damned if I don't come back and give it five stars. ( )
1 vote Proustitutes | Jun 11, 2015 |
In India in 1975, four individuals' lives intersect and intertwine in ways that none of them expected. Dina Dalal is a widow just barely keeping poverty away by taking on a paying guest and starting a small sewing business. Maneck is a student desperate to escape the awful living conditions in the student housing, who ends up staying with Dina, a school friend of his mother. Ishvar and Omprakash are an uncle and nephew who have come from their small village to earn their fortune in the city working as tailors. As these four people begin to form relationships they also begin to recognize the harsh realities that each of them face and the possibilities for hope in their lives.

This is one of those novels that will linger long after you read the final page. Mistry creates four central characters who feel unbelievably real and places them in a world that is often devastating in its realities. The novel is also one that causes the reader to reflect on their own thoughts and behaviours. How much sympathy do we really give those who are less fortunate than us? Are we ever capable of looking beyond our own problems and issues to recognize those of the others in close proximity to us? Yet in the midst of raising these questions, the writing never feels like anything more than beautiful, if occasionally painful, storytelling. Mistry's novel is an immersive experience that alters you after it ends. ( )
1 vote MickyFine | May 23, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 166 (next | show all)
Rohinton Mistry needs no infusions of magical realism to vivify the real. The real world, through his eyes, is quite magical enough.

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mistry, RohintonAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cowper, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Danielsson, UllaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Echevarría, AuroraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Julià, PepTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mulder, ArjenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Post, MaaikeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pujol, RubénTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Holding this book in your hand, sinking back in your soft armchair, you will say to yourself: perhaps it will amuse me. And after you have read this story of great misfortunes, you will no doubt dine well, blaming the author for your own insensitivity, accusing him of wild exaggeration and flights of fancy. But rest assured: this tragedy is not a fiction. All is true."

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 140003065X, Paperback)

With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India. The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers--a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.

As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:31 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

A portrait of India featuring four characters. Two are tailors who are forcibly sterilized, one is a student who emigrates, and the fourth is a widowed seamstress who decides to hang on. A tale of cruelty, political thuggery and despair by an Indian from Toronto, author of Such a Long Journey.… (more)

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