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A Fine Balance (1995)

by Rohinton Mistry

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,075229747 (4.37)1 / 748
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. 80
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    mariamreza: Also leads the reader through an emotional roller coaster, experiencing the hope and despair of the characters from poor/ oppressed communities.
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English (220)  French (3)  Norwegian (2)  Danish (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (228)
Showing 1-5 of 220 (next | show all)

One of the best books I have read in a while. The writing was beautiful, the story was so beautifully crafted. It made me feel like a myriad of emotions - sadness, happiness, anger, fear. I feel like I just lived with the characters. I was attached to them. I haven't felt this sheer amount of sadness in a very long time. It is that book that leaves you ugly crying. ( )
  Akankshadsh | Oct 1, 2020 |
I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!

Wow. What an epic novel.

The story is about four people who become friends during the years of The Emergency in India (1975-77). That emergency and the years after were the product of Prime Minister Indira Ghandi, who in this book is simply referred to as the Prime Minister, never by name.

The characters experience many of the abuses that took place during that near-two-year period. At times I wondered if Mistry created the characters so that they could experience or observe the atrocities, as well as show us the differences in how The Emergency affected the different cultural groups. The caste system was still alive and well, in spite of efforts to stamp it out. Too many generations living in this system made it difficult for individuals to break out.

Maneck is Parsi, a small but influential minority in India. He leaves his home in the mountains, where his father runs a general store, to seek further education. Disturbed by the condition of the dormitory and the behavior of fellow lodgers, he seeks lodging elsewhere, and ends up in the small apartment of Dina Dalal, a friend of his family. Dina is from a prominent family, but has fallen on hard times following the death of her husband. She is determined to make her way and tries to avoid going to her brother for help.

Also arriving at Dina's house at the same time are the two tailors: Ishvar and Om. They are the surviving members of their family of "untouchables", having broken away from the work of the clan, tanning, and taken up tailoring. They go to work for Dina, making clothing from patterns and material provided by a clothing company. Rather than employ people in a single location, the manufacturer contracts with many people who in turn hire tailors.

It is an uneasy alliance that gradually softens. Dina has difficulty overcoming the prejudices of her past, the assumptions that some people are simply better than others. Maneck provides the glue that somehow connects the unlikely group. If only they all could have stayed safe from outside influences. But they are constantly affected by the decrees of The Emergency and the corruption rampant within the police force.

This is no feel-good novel, yet it is a story, in a way, of hope. The "fine balance" is between hope and despair. You might be able to guess who can keep finding hope and who cannot. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
A compelling (although very depressing) look at India's caste system through the eyes of the four main characters. Despite the endless tragedies and misfortunes I could not put this book down. ( )
  baruthcook | Aug 26, 2020 |
Four very different characters come together in a small flat in 1970s India- a time of massive corruption, thuggery and evil under Indira Gandhi. This is a tale of the (changing) balance between them, but also, another kind: "there is always hope- hope enough to balance our despair. Or we would be lost." (But IS there hope??)
First there's widowed Dina Shroff; struggling to keep her independence from a controlling brother. Then student Maneck, son of an old schoolfriend, now coming to lodge with her, after a traumatic time living in a hostel.
And lastly two impoverished tailors, coming to work for her as she tries to start a sewing business; uncle and nephew, once Untouchables, they too have a story to tell...and aspirations.
This is a truly shocking expose of an era I knew nothing about. Bribery, gangs, beggars, slave labour...
The end is so UTTERLY beautiful, that you have to read the whole thing to get the full import of how Maneck's life works out. As perhaps the most sensitively drawn of the four characters, it totally tears the heart strings. ( )
1 vote starbox | Jun 20, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 220 (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
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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