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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 (681 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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4.4 (372 )
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Story
4.6 (373 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Derek Omaha, NE, USA 09-05-09
    Derek Omaha, NE, USA 09-05-09 Member Since 2008
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    114
    1
    Overall
    "Worth 2 credits?"

    Yes, absolutely. I have felt cheated a number of times spending only one credit but, I am glad I took a chance on this one. As others have said, the book is a little slow to start but, as I got to know the characters, I began to feel that they were a part of my own family. I desperately wanted them to succeed but, just like real life, they often did not. It felt great when they did get a break. I can't forget the narrator John Lee. He was fantastic as always.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    taratooley 01-21-06
    taratooley 01-21-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    47
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    14
    10
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    3
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    "A 5 - not because I would listen again"

    Kind of a Schindler's list. This book haunts me. I hope it is not really that bad anywhere. Maybe it is. Maybe I'm naive, probably. We really have a wonderful life here in the USA.

    I gave it a 5 because of how it demanded my attention and has kept my thoughts for many months. It is truly a story to ponder.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stacey 11-08-05
    Stacey 11-08-05
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    3
    Overall
    "Cultural Window"

    After reading The Kite Runner I really wanted a story that would give me that same insight into another culture. It's like traveling without leaving home!Although I would reccomend this book I must agree with other reviewers, be warned: it's not a happy ending. It is a good story with great characters, and engulfs you in India and the times and culture.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ann Stow, OH, United States 10-07-05
    Ann Stow, OH, United States 10-07-05 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
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    346
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    "Wonderful book!!"

    This is a book that will stay with you long after you've finished listening to it. The narration was superb!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol Grosse Ile, MI, United States 06-26-05
    Carol Grosse Ile, MI, United States 06-26-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    23
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    "An Incredible Book"

    I am so glad I purchased this audio book. The lives of the characters was so very interesting... devastating at times... I felt like I was right there with them which to me is indicative of good story-telling. The narrator is excellant. I was disappointed the story had to end. I wanted to know more about how their lives went on.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gene Agoura Hills, CA, USA 02-05-05
    Gene Agoura Hills, CA, USA 02-05-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    661
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    97
    41
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    9
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    Overall
    "It's a Wonderful Book"

    This great book gives insight into India and to life itself like other greats such as Passage to India. I followed it up by reading the text and realized that listening to the book was almost as good, except for the many unfamiliar Indian words and phrases that were easier to follow in print. It would be nice if Audible in the future posted online supplementary pages that would help explain some things that are inevitably obscure in a reading -- in this case, a glossary of Indian words and expression would have been helpful. Certainly I will never think of Indira Gandhi and her State of Emergency in the same way after reading about the impact her effort at "beautification" had on the poor of India. Of course, I don't know how accurate this depiction is...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sandra Philomath, OR, United States 10-29-04
    Sandra Philomath, OR, United States 10-29-04 Member Since 2004

    I like unabridged novels. When I first joined Audible, many were abridged. That has changed. Non-fiction, politics, bios are favorites

    HELPFUL VOTES
    119
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    55
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    4
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    "a beautiful life"

    I agree with the other reviewers. This is a beautiful and devistating book. I can't imagine the will required to persist in such a land. The characters are so well described and so well read. I was sorry to finish but I didn't think that I could stand to hear much more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patti Monroe Township, NJ, USA 01-19-09
    Patti Monroe Township, NJ, USA 01-19-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    8
    2
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    0
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    "So unrewarding"

    One would think that there would be some good coming out of all of the horrible struggles that these characters endure. I was so disappointed when I reached the end of the book. If you want to feel complete dispair at the end of a long "read", than do read this book!

    4 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judith 08-04-07
    Judith 08-04-07 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    39
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    69
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    1
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    Overall
    "cruelty for cruelty's sake"

    This is a very well-written book, but it left me very angry. i felt the writer used his great talent to plainly manipulate the reader. The structure of this rather long book becomes quite predictable after a while: nice, sweet relaxed parts followed by gruesome cruel ones. The "bad" parts become more and more intolerable, and once you realize the pattern you kind of dread what's to follow.
    As i said, the book is very manipulative. Like a horror film made by a talented director, whose main objective is to leave you shaken and breathless. This requires writing skills, no doubt, but it's far from being "good literature" or even just literature for that matter.
    The narration is very good, which, in a way makes things even worse. It's as if the narrator is an accomplice to the writer's manipulative story-telling.
    It is especially pitiful as Mr. Mistry is such a fine writer. His other books are really good. He knows better, no doubt.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy Tucson, AZ, USA 08-07-07
    Nancy Tucson, AZ, USA 08-07-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    23
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    33
    8
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    1
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    Overall
    "well done but dismal"

    I know many have listened to this book and given it very high ratings. It wasn't until I finished it that I realized that the plot was one catastrophe after another. The characters were well developed and the writing is well deserving of three stars but I found the book generally depressing.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
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