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A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

A Fine Balance (1995)

by Rohinton Mistry

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,179197495 (4.37)1 / 676
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  7. 10
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English (190)  Norwegian (2)  French (2)  German (1)  Danish (1)  All (196)
Showing 1-5 of 190 (next | show all)
1995 Giller Prize Winner
  ZaraD.Garcia-Alvarez | Jun 6, 2017 |
A very depressing book. Nothing goes right for anyone and everyone just ends up accepting bad things. ( )
  SydneySpaniel | Mar 27, 2017 |
At times difficult to read at other times heart-warming. A well-written story of four unlikely friends, crossing caste (and gender) boundaries to live together in modern India. ( )
  CindaMac | Mar 26, 2017 |
Beautifully-written story about India set in the 1970's. Focusing on the rife corruption, cruelty, fear and poverty, as seen through the experiences of four characters: an independent widow, a student, and two 'untouchables' who learn to sew; with a large cast of memorable figures including beggars, a beggar-master, a rent collector and a monkey-man street entertainer.

Mistry writes in a way that makes you care about his well-drawn characters. But for me (and hence only 4-stars) there was little balance between 'hope' and 'despair'. I found myself willing an alternate ending, whereby the four main characters found a new life in an invigorated shop in the hills.

Knowing little of India, I have no idea how true a picture this novel depicts of the time. And it would be fascinating to know what Indians living through those times made of this beautiful but bleak book. ( )
  LARA335 | Mar 24, 2017 |
What to say, A Fine Balance is brilliant, and its length only a small obstacle.
I was very surprised at how quickly I moved through 50-page chunks of this story as I became engrossed in the lives of several unfortunate citizens of an un-named Indian city during the official Emergency of 1975. What a cast of characters: A widow, determined to be independent and not to remain under the thumb of her older brother; a college student with an unclear vision of his own future; 2 tailors who have broken caste restrictions that would have kept them competing for animal carcasses and immersed in tanning chemicals as their fathers and grandfathers before them; a beggar mutilated as a child to make him more profitable to the Beggarmaster; the Monkey Man, whose street performances required a very fine sense of balance indeed. These lives intertwine in ways variously beneficial, detrimental, and tragic. There is little fairness, justice or order during the Emergency, and almost no basis for hope or dreams. In fact, very few of these people have any hopes for themselves beyond basic survival. They seem unsophisticated, fatalistic, almost simple-minded, to the Western reader, and have no points of references with the world beyond their limits. Sleeping in a doorway under the protection of a night watchman becomes a privilege to be held dear. People disappear regularly, victims of government round-ups for “supportive” crowds at an appearance by the Prime Minister, or for impressed labor, or even for involuntary sterilization. Although the college student’s parents, in their remote and, by contrast, idyllic, mountain home have dreams for their son and the elder tailor has dreams of marriage and children for his nephew, neither young man is able to share or even pretend enthusiasm for these hopeful imaginings. The reality of their existence is too forceful, the government presence and control too pervasive. As Maneck the student observes when asked if he believes that God is dead: "I prefer to think that God is a giant quiltmaker. With an infinite variety of designs. And the quilt is grown so big and confusing, the pattern is impossible to see, the squares and diamonds and triangles don't fit well together anymore, it's all become meaningless. So He has abandoned it." As grim as it all is, there are moments of kindness, compassion and connection among the principals, as they occasionally find that balance between hope and despair that keeps the human spirit alive. "There is always hope--hope enough to balance our despair. Or we would be lost." Despite a few touches of dark humor, there is no doubt that reading this book is a heart-wrenching experience. As the 4 main characters come to care for one another, the reader comes to care for them, and to dread the inevitability of the college student’s repeated observation that everything always ends badly. With a bit more lightness, this would have been a 5-star read for me. But then it would have been slightly less brilliant, perhaps. ( )
6 vote laytonwoman3rd | Mar 8, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 190 (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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The morning express bloated with passengers slowed to a crawl, then lurched forward suddenly, as though to resume full speed.
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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)

» see all 6 descriptions

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