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A Fine Balance (1995)

by Rohinton Mistry

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,546242782 (4.36)1 / 792
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.
  1. 90
    The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (JudeyN)
    JudeyN: Set in a different time and place, but similar themes. Examines the different ways in which people respond to hardship and upheaval.
  2. 60
    The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Both novels look at the dire side of life in India, and both are very well written.
  3. 82
    The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (mariamreza)
    mariamreza: Also leads the reader through an emotional roller coaster, experiencing the hope and despair of the characters from poor/ oppressed communities.
  4. 30
    Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry (mcenroeucsb)
  5. 41
    A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (TeeKay, Othemts)
  6. 21
    Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (reenum)
  7. 10
    Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (jigarpatel)
    jigarpatel: Covering similar themes, a non-fiction journalistic story of life and poverty in Mumbai slums.
  8. 10
    Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (Cecrow)
  9. 32
    Roots by Alex Haley (mariamreza)
    mariamreza: Also leads the reader through an emotional roller coaster, experiencing the hope and despair of the characters from poor/ oppressed communities.
  10. 21
    The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri (Heaven-Ali)
  11. 10
    The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (Othemts)
  12. 00
    An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth by Mahatma Gandhi (sruszala)
  13. 00
    Walking the Bowl: A True Story of Murder and Survival Among the Street Children of Lusaka by Chris Lockhart (LDVoorberg)
    LDVoorberg: Walking the Bowl is nonfiction and set in Zambia, and A Fine Balance is fiction in India, but both books bring humanity (ie street people are REAL people) to lives often overlooked and show that generosity and kindness are important for every circumstance. They have power.… (more)
  14. 00
    Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra (Heaven-Ali)
  15. 00
    Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie (pdebolt)
  16. 00
    Salt and Saffron by Kamila Shamsie (Othemts)
  17. 00
    A Far Country by Daniel Mason (KimarieBee)
  18. 22
    The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill (LDVoorberg)
  19. 01
    Q & A by Vikas Swarup (eugeniajune09)
Asia (8)
1990s (176)
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» See also 792 mentions

English (229)  French (4)  Norwegian (2)  Danish (2)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (239)
Showing 1-5 of 229 (next | show all)
I did enjoy the book but I wasn't sure I would. It took me a lot of time and reading to really get hooked and wasn't sure I would enjoy it but read anyway. It finally captivated me enough to really care what happened to the characters. What a heart wrenching story. It is so hard to believe that people can be so cruel to each other but they are all the time. Thanx for sharing this book with me. I am glad I read it. I did have a hard time going to sleep after finishing it last night. The ending had me thinking. ( )
  KyleneJones | Apr 25, 2022 |
Discovering this 1995 novel all these years later, it drew strong comparisons for me with "The Kite Runner" in its style and subject matter, and how it dispenses with all the needless magical realism of "Midnight's Children". This one is arguably braver than either of those novels for being utterly unflinching. The four central characters represent a swath of India's population on the social economic scale in the 1970s, and the course of their lives explores every corner of the worst things that period had to offer. Mistry never identifies Bombay/Mumbai by name, and 'the Prime Minister' never has her name stated. I thought this was strange distancing in a novel that refuses to shy away from harsh realities, but perhaps the lesson is that India's past should not be dismissed as having no bearing on its present.

At over 700 pages this novel might have been shorter, but it never feels long with its brisk pacing, its dramatic highs and lows. As other reviewers have noted, it is the man whom Maneck meets on the train who delivers the key line, "You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair." But another telling quote is, "They are so rich in foreign countries, they can afford to fear all kinds of silly things." The epilogue is earned and it is pitch perfect. ( )
  Cecrow | Apr 1, 2022 |
Four people are thrown together by happenstance, become friends, and form a kind of family in a city in India where the prevailing atmosphere is poverty, corruption, injustice, and despair. ( )
  FBGNewbies | Mar 21, 2022 |
The fine balance is between hope and despair, between justice and injustice, between humanity and cruelty. But I really felt the stars tended to cruelty, injustice and lack of humanity. Realizing the setting is Indira Ghandi’s India doesn’t change it, but just makes the examples crueler and harsher and very difficult to take. Quite a portrait. Bring a strong stomach. ( )
  PattyLee | Dec 14, 2021 |
Usually when I finish a book - and if that book touched me in some way - I find myself reading reviews hoping that someone already said (and in a better way that I would) what I want to say. And if I don't find it I feel the need to post a short review myself even though I'm horrible at it (and so is my English).

I skipped through several reviews here and I cannot immediately find the main though that's been in my head since I closed this book. So...

The name of the book, the meaning of the name, suddenly seemed totally and absolutely clear when I read the last scene.
You have to find this find balance between hope and despair in your life to keep going, and Dina, Om and Ishvar managed to do it. Despite lost husbands, lost families, lost homes, lost legs, lost testicles and basically lost everything.
What striked me most was Dina's thinking about how those two made her laugh every day, and how she still got a bit of time before making dinner so why not take a nap.

And this is amazing. This is just so.. normal. Something from normal, day-by-day life. And the idea that after all that they went through they managed to grab a hold of this - almost - normal life blows my mind.
I wouldn't be able to do it.
I would be Maneck. ( )
  alissee | Dec 8, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 229 (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, Rohintonprimary 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."

Honore de Balzac, Le Pere Goriot
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For Freny
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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