A liitle hard to get into at first - but well worth the effort! I can honestly say this was one of the best books it's ever been my pleasure to experience. Also very informative if you're interested in India and it's history and rich culture.
I just finished this book and I had to write a review to warn you. I listen to over 40 books a year and this by far is the sadest, most tragic book I have listed to in 6 years. They don't get any grimmer. By the way the writing is good and John Lee is superb.
You learn much about Indira Gandhi government and her policies in mid '70's but GEEE BABA, it is such a downer. Had I known, I would have never touched it.
This book makes Kite Runner and a Thousand Splendid Suns look like comedies. (great books by the way)
You want an uplifting book listen to "Brother Fish"
You want a great book about India, you must listen to "Shantram"
Other good books:
"Pillars of the Earth"
"The Company: A Novel about CIA"
I seldom bother to write reviews. This review is here to simply echo my endorsement of this book. It's worth the time spend reading. Everything the other 5 star reviewers write is spot on. Buy this book, you will not be sorry.
I have read many Audible reviews of "A Fine Balance" in which the reviewer was put off by the "depressing" content of the novel. I don't know what books those reviewers normally read, but just as life is not all rainbows and unicorns, neither is literature. Granted, AFB not for the faint of heart, or those whose outrage threshold is low, but for those with the stamina and emotional fortitude to take it on, it is a most rewarding experience. Beautifully written, its scope--ranging from village to town to city, with an assortment of side characters who interact with the four protagonists--and its focus on social injustice merit the comparisons to Dickens that the novel often receives. But unlike Dickens, Mistry feels no need to comfort his readers with the maudlin happy endings that so often mar Dicken's greatest works. Instead, he takes a steely-eyed, realistic, and fatalistic (if not nihilistic), view of the lives of his characters and their lives.
I was a little bit nervous when I saw it was narrated by John Lee. I like his narration in general, but he has a weird way with accents (whenever he does a European accent, he always ends up sounding like the Count from Sesame Street), and I was not sure how he would do on subcontinental accents. But he was fine, and the listening experience was quite enjoyable.
Avid reader and foodie. I read mostly fiction but thanks to my awesome book club I am branching out and finding some great books!
A Fine Balance is one of my favorite books, so having it to listen to in the car is a nice treat.
This book is an epic, sweeping novel about a really troubled time in India's history. It is written such that you feel every emotion, you see the landscape... few writers have Mistry's gift. His writing is amazing. I would read (and have!) anything he writes.
I was not happy with the narration- mostly because I'm Indian, and almost every Hindi word was mispronounced. These were not difficult words- any Indian could have told the narrator how to pronounce, but as I listened it was just really off-putting.
For example, "loata" is pronounced "low-ta", not "low-AH-ta", and loata is a super common indian word so hearing it wrong over and over was painful. Same with so many others, and even the names. "Naaa-waaaz" (Nawaz) should have been "Na-waaaz." I could go on and on. So while I think the book is literally a masterpiece, I was disappointed at the narration. However if you are not a Hindi/Urdu speaker, you'll probably be none the wiser and enjoy it.
"Where humans were concerned, the only emotion that made sense was wonder at their ability to endure, and sorrow for the hopelessness of it all."
This sentence from the book more or less sums up how I feel after finishing. The setting of the story is India in 1975 (with several brief jaunts to earlier parts of the 20th century to explain characters' backgrounds), and it paints an entertaining, at times amusing, and yet often bleak and disturbing picture of how the political situation in India affects people of different backgrounds (Hindu, Muslim, Sikh), different points of origin (mountains, village, big city) and different socioeconomic statuses. The fact that the reader gets to know the characters so well makes the good times particularly heartwarming, and at times makes it difficult to hear what is happening to them.
I found the story to be well crafted and nicely paced. There are several characters and story lines that cross when you don't expect it and are easy to follow. The narrator, John Lee, is excellent; I might not have embarked upon the audiobook version of this novel if I had not seen his name in the narrator slot.
If you want to really understand how the class systems in India really work for the lower classes in the 20th century but you need a good story with your history, then this book is for you.
This story paints a colorful picture of India through its recent history. The characters are vibrant and interesting. The story runs like a river, gently twisting and turning through historical and fictional events. At times, it's grippingly tragic. At times, whole-heartedly joyful. All is told with an insightful, easygoing style, with lots of light comedy sprinkled throughout. And the narration is exceptional, and the telling surely adds a lot to the story.
I'll begin by stating that I almost never give 5 stars. I probably would have given 4.5 if I could. The first 1/3 of the book, I kept thinking that I would not be able to finish the book. I was essentially bored and not really caring for the characters. Once I hit the halfway point, I could not stop listening! Please, at least go to the halfway point if you are bored. You will find yourself sucked into a web of political anguish with a first had perspective. These characters get the real meaning of friendship and family.
Narrator does a great job with the voices of the characters, which because of the length of the book are sometimes hard to keep up with. It is well worth the trouble to keep trying to remember who is who and doing what. Very colorful and unfortunately real depiction of life for these people. One of those books that if you miss a line or two, you have to back it up to hear it again because each line is crucial to the story he is telling - so not good for mp3 players that don't let you back it up a notch. I found I had to pretty much stop everything to listen, just to make sure I didn't miss out on the details that make it so real.