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A Fine Balance (1995)

by Rohinton Mistry

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9,233255884 (4.36)1 / 849
Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML: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.
… (more)
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    Nickelini: Both novels look at the dire side of life in India, and both are very well written.
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    Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry (mcenroeucsb)
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    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)
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Asia (8)
AP Lit (198)
1990s (183)
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» See also 849 mentions

English (244)  French (4)  Danish (2)  Norwegian (2)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All languages (254)
Showing 1-5 of 244 (next | show all)
[A Fine Balance] is a sweeping drama of four people who unexpectedly end up living together during a tumultuous year, 1975, in India. Dina is a middle-aged widow desperately trying to hang on to her independence, despite her brother's efforts to get her to re-marry. Maneck is a young man in the city to attend college, who left his beautiful mountain town at his parents' behest to try to better his life. The student hostel is so disgusting that he ends up renting a room from Dina, who is a distant family friend. And then there are Ishvar and Omprakash, who are tailors that end up working for Dina out of her apartment. They were also living in a rural town where their family had been on the rise out of their lower caste. But misfortunes keep arising to keep them down. The four will spend a year together during a State of Emergency declared by the Prime Minister that upends life for the lower classes in some truly horrifying and gruesome ways.

The book is grim and has moments of utter despair, pure bad luck, and unfairness. There are despicable characters, horrible deaths, and plenty of squalor. Usually I can't stomach a book like this. However, Mistry somehow balances this with some good, some lighthearted moments, and impressive writing. I was completely invested from the first chapter and just had to see where it was all going to end up. I don't think, in a book like this, it's a spoiler to say that things do not end well for all the characters. It's clear from the get go that a book this realistic will not have a fairy tale ending - though I did keep hoping for one. And I suppose that's where the title comes in. Life is "a fine balance" of hope and despair. In 1970s India, if Mistry's portrayal is at all accurate, this is all too true. ( )
1 vote japaul22 | Mar 16, 2024 |
India in the 1980s. A sometimes rambling search for meaning, for love amid the ruins of another humanity. ( )
  ben_r47 | Feb 22, 2024 |
This is an extraordinary second novel (shortlisted for the Booker). Although Mistry has his tics (he loves to throw in a big, unusual word every now and then, among other things), those tics are—I suspect—the bad habit of a young writer searching for his voice. I will be reading his other books soon, I hope, and will be interested to see how his writing evolves. But the book, you ask? In a nutshell, it follows a central core of characters from very different backgrounds thrown together by chance. We learn their individual histories and then follow them in Bombay (unnamed, but clear) during the Emergency, a truly dismal period in the mid/late 1970s. Indira Gandhi, desperate to remain in power, chose to break the law and invoke extraordinary and unlawful powers to run the country as she saw fit, regardless of consequences. This book is about those consequences. Contrived situations are few and Mistry has drawn indelible, human characters, complete with flaws as well as virtues. Some of the circumstances Mistry portrays are brutal and even painful. Yet the book contains a great deal of satisfying and even funny episodes. Mistry takes his epigraph from Balzac—a master whose writing this book resembles in many ways; from Le Père Goriot: “But rest assured: This tragedy is not a fiction. All is True.” Very highly recommended. ( )
  Gypsy_Boy | Feb 16, 2024 |
A multi-layered masterpiece. Please read it. ( )
  dibble | Jan 18, 2024 |
The characters are lovable and the writing superb! I found the latter part of the narrative felt rushed and I never had a clear sense of where things were going. I listened to it via Audible and the narration was perfect. ( )
  jcoleman3307 | Nov 23, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 244 (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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Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML: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.

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