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A Fine Balance | [Rohinton Mistry]

A Fine Balance

In the India of the mid-1970s, Indira Gandhi's government has just come to power. It institutionalizes corruption and arbitrary force, most oppressive to the poorest and weakest people under its sway. Against this backdrop, in an unnamed city by the sea, four people struggle to survive. Dina, Maneck, and two tailors, the Untouchables Om and Ishvar, who are sewing in Dina's service, undergo a series of reversals.
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Publisher's Summary

In the India of the mid-1970s, Indira Gandhi's government has just come to power. It institutionalizes corruption and arbitrary force, most oppressive to the poorest and weakest people under its sway. Against this backdrop, in an unnamed city by the sea, four people struggle to survive. Dina, Maneck, and two tailors, the Untouchables Om and Ishvar, who are sewing in Dina's service, undergo a series of reversals, punctuated only by small mocking advances, that start them on a trajectory towards unhappiness and despair. Yet, in choosing what they will do, they exhibit a basic dignity and humanity that belies their mistreatment as part of the underclass. By merely surviving until their load becomes unbearable, and then living on past that point, they have accomplished something.

©1995 Rohinton Mistry; (P)2001 Books on Tape, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Mistry...needs no infusion of magic realism to vivify the real. The real world, through his eyes, is magical." (The New York Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (701 )
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4.4 (388 )
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  •  
    nursebettyknitting Boise, ID USA 11-16-13
    nursebettyknitting Boise, ID USA 11-16-13 Member Since 2012

    knitting fiend

    HELPFUL VOTES
    135
    ratings
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    "One of the best novels ever written"

    At first, I had trouble "getting into" this book - a lot of foreign names to sort through. However, I kept listening and got completely engrossed in it. For sure, this is one of the greatest work of literature of our times, and I don't declare it lightly. What an amazing portrait of humanity with all its flaws, a slice of life painted with masterful strokes. The destinies of main characters - a widow, two taylors, and a college student intersect for a year.They become an unusual family of sorts, enjoying companionship, friendship and mutual support.
    The book has a very sad ending. It is probably more true and realistic then the "good" endings I like to enjoy at the end of stories. Do not miss this novel, it is a true gem.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    B. Jane Spanos NH 10-22-06
    B. Jane Spanos NH 10-22-06 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Brilliant"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darioush irvine, US, Canada 03-23-08
    Darioush irvine, US, Canada 03-23-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    33
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    "Read this book if your heart is made of steal"

    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"
    "Potato Factory"
    "The Company: A Novel about CIA"
    "Up Country"

    33 of 44 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt Garland, TX, USA 01-28-05
    Matt Garland, TX, USA 01-28-05 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    25
    3
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    "What an incredible and devastating book"

    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.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KP United States 04-13-14
    KP United States 04-13-14 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    257
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    Story
    "A Fine Telling"

    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Russell Houston, TX, United States 04-11-09
    Russell Houston, TX, United States 04-11-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great modern history of India plus good characters"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dave Atlanta , GA, USA 08-15-07
    Dave Atlanta , GA, USA 08-15-07 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wonderful!"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stacie L. Helsing MA United States 03-28-07
    Stacie L. Helsing MA United States 03-28-07 Member Since 2008

    stacielc

    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
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    "Keep listening"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa Wellington, FL, USA 05-27-06
    Lisa Wellington, FL, USA 05-27-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good Historical Fiction"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dera Athens, GA, USA 02-12-06
    Dera Athens, GA, USA 02-12-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    "unforgettable"

    A perfect listening experience for the long commute! The slow unwinding of this tale about lives so different from mine was completely absorbing. The characters' stories twine around each other with an inevitability that feels like real life. Dina's quilt, one of the central metaphors of the book, is stitched together from scraps into something beautiful; in the same way, this story suggests, our lives unfold.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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