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A Fine Balance

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

For use in schools and libraries only. In mid-1970s India, after a "state of internal emergency" is declared, four diverse people--a widowed seamstress, a student, and a man and his nephew who have... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

7 ratings

I bought the hardcover, and a paperback was shipped.

This book is truly a work of art

Book that will touch the heart and soul of the readers.

I just finished reading this book and it is very exciting story and at the same time sad which the reader will always remember the story and i did not like to keep it down till i reached the end and while reading this book i had tears in my eyes.


You know you've read an epic novel when its 5th line had you sucked hook line and sinker. This 2-time "just missed Pulitzer" masterpiece from RM was stuck in my hands until I had it smacked down to the very last word. Immaculate piece of literature, this, you'll be an instant RM convert. Although it's named "A Fine Balance", this novella is one of those rare gems that simply blow you out of the bubble in which you lead your life -- impervious to the extremeties around you. I found myself almost living in the world of our 4 protagonists as they go go from bouquets to brickbats. Mistry's fluent and witty language only eggs you on, I found myself amused and chuckling at many points in the book, and hard as it is to admit, I even had my eyes welled up on more occasions than I can remember. Our protagonists are simple people, mind you. A couple of tailors, a young woman who makes her life sewing, her brother who makes it in "business". The idiosynchrasies of each character, their daily peccadiloes, the minute lens with which we are exposed to their smallest emotions, joys and fears -- as a peak into the ordinary Indian life, I simply cannot imagine a more accurate or grittier novel in recent memory. India is indeed a country where the sinister contours of social strata (the caste system, to be specific) often seem clumsy, ominous or just plain grotesque, where deep ideological divisions feed into and exacerbate ordinary social mores. Even external dangers play themselves out domestically. A Fine Balance brims with such clear-eyed, tragicomic, Dickens-like observations of the Indian fabric. Ingenious, wholesome, and deeply moving. Not just for Indians or people interested in India, this novel is a delight to read for ANYONE even mildly interested in literature. Highly, highly recommended!

I hate you Mistry

I walked by the homeless in the streets while growing up in a city by the sea not unlike the one in this book. I was repulsed by their grimy faces, their missing limbs, their tattered and dirty clothes. Fearful I might catch their poor people diseases if I ventured too close, I would cross the street to avoid them. Sometimes throwing coins into their tin cups from a sterile distance-sometimes missing, and walking away praising my own charity.Thank you Mr. Mistry for showing me the other side of the story. Thank you for putting into plain and powerful words exactly how unfair life in India is to the poor and lower castes. You have taught me more than any text book could about the injustices that daily occur in India. I hate you for your brutal honesty and for making me feel this way. Or perhaps, like you prophesized in the begining of this book, I am only blaming you for my own insensitivity. For those of you considering reading this book, here is my warning. Mistry will seduce you with his flowing words and his gripping story. He will make you feel for his characters. He will show you a side of life that millions of people bravely struggle through. And soon you will begin to fear turning the page for fear of what might happend to the characters. And rest assured, when you turn the last page, and look for some solace, you will find none. For all is true. I have seen the Shankars and Ishvars and Oms. Go to any Indian city street corner, and you will too.

A Fine Experience!

I picked up this book thinking it would be a good read similar to Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy, but Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance does not only stand head and shoulders above Seth's book but puts to shame acclaimed South Asian authors such as Arundhati Roy, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Manil Suri. Mistry's characterizations are brilliantly well-defined, especially the four main characters Ishvar and Om Darji, Dina Dalal, and Maneck Kohlah. The author has the ability to completely immerse you with their lives. You'll find yourself sympathizing with them as they try to make ends meet, laughing at their escapades and hilarious one-liners, and crying at the needlessly heavy injustices inflicted upon their lives. Through getting deeper into the story, you will find yourself developing feelings of initial indifference and skepticism, to trust and fondness for its characters - much akin to the manner in which they themselves grow close to each other. The crazy hair collector, Monkey Man, Beggarmaster, and Shankar, despite being relatively minor characters, will undoubtably stay in your memory, thanks to their uncanny and almost satirically funny existence.This book is not just a good read, but an experience you'll likely never forget (I'm already regretting that it's over).


India, a country I knew little about, haunts me since reading this book. The author captures on paper the feeling of India on every page. The sounds, the smells and the people stay with me well after the last page was turned. Unforgettable characters that evoke every type of emotion! Rohinton Mistry meshes the lives of four people of diverse backgrounds into a bond that lasts a lifetime. The in-depth look at a culture and a people that I knew little about has brought about an understanding that I previously lacked. Dina Dalal, widowed and determined to make it as an independent woman in a world where women have little value, becomes the unwilling glue that supports 3 other lives. Maneck Kohlah is a student, sent by his parents from his mountain village to attend school in the city. Ishvar Darji and his nephew Omprakash are tailors escaping the terror in their village by moving to the city to look for work. This unlikely group of people become dependent on each other out of necessity, their lives entangling to create the basis of the story.This book is written with much sadness as well as humour and has touched a place in my heart. I look forward to reading more by this author in the future. Bravo!

Absolutely One Of My Favorite Books

This book is a masterpiece and it took me by surprise. This was a book that I bought and read only because it was our book club choice and THANK GOODNESS for that or I would've never read this terrific piece about history and foreign culture. Wonderful Oprah's very best picks.The writing is beautiful and brings new understanding about India's struggles with poverty and caste systems. The bittersweet cultures and traditions are displayed through this story using 4 main characters and involving many background characters to make this book so realistic that as a reader, I felt like I actually visited this country and knew the characters. I didn't always like some of the characters but I could feel their sadness, their fright, their loss and sorrow, and even their desire to make it.I recommend everyone, yes everyone to pick this book up and read it. It is long. It is, at times, depressing. It is, at times, cruel. And there are some scenes written about that are rather crude. But all of this is needed to tell the story of India during the 70s and the changes it was going through as well as the corrupt government. Here's a book to make an American feel the privileges our country gives us, or any truely free country.This is a book that would be great for seniors in high school to read eventhough there are some explicit and dramatic scenes written about that don't paint a very pretty picture.And the author's writing is tremendous. Flowing with the book's activities put together in a way that makes the reader very anxious to keep reading. The use of some Indian words did slow the reading a bit for me but the story would not have felt so authentic or have such an impact without them.This is a gem of a book. A true "travel-read" into another time and culture. It has opened my eyes to a different time and place in history and I'm very thankful it was a book club choice and that I read this book. Highly, highly recommended.

A Fine Balance Mentions in Our Blog

A Fine Balance in The New York Times Book Review Celebrates Their Anniversary with a Vote
The New York Times Book Review Celebrates Their Anniversary with a Vote
Published by Amanda Cleveland • January 04, 2022

The New York Times Book Review turned 125 years old. To celebrate their momentous anniversary and their dedicated readership, they asked their readers to nominate the best books of the past 125 years. They took thousands of nominations down to 25 finalists, then that finalist down to one winner.

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