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A Fine Balance

4.33 of 5 stars 4.33  ·  rating details  ·  85,127 ratings  ·  5,861 reviews
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 uproote ...more
Paperback, 603 pages
Published November 30th 2001 by Vintage (first published 1995)
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee1984 by George OrwellThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Best Books of the 20th Century
132nd out of 6,148 books — 41,273 voters
The Kite Runner by Khaled HosseiniA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniA Fine Balance by Rohinton MistryThe God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyThe Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Best South Asian Fiction
3rd out of 443 books — 1,335 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 16, 2007 Z rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone looking for a deep and complex read
Shelves: favourites

I stayed up all night to finish this book, because the climax is simply unputdownable. I am hesitant to formally review it because it's one of those few books that can't be confined within the bounds of a critique or summary, and one that is so magnificent and moving that the idea of reviewing it makes me feel insolent already! So I'll just note what I feel about the book, and the kind of effect it's had on me.

It's grim. Very grim. There are moments of tragicomedy, of overjoyed glimpses of the s
But rest assured: This tragedy is not a fiction. All is True.

Hence started my journey of a fine book, A Fine Balance. I have no sane excuse for my ignorance about Rohinton Mistry novels. I just didn’t have a single clue about him or his achievements till I joined Goodreads. Yes!! Though it’s not a big deal as one is not supposed to know everything but here’s a writer of Indian origin, writing unbelievably great books about Indians and is still remain unacknowledged by a common Indian reader is
Liking this book makes no sense. Not only are its characters subjected to like, the bleakest set of circumstances ever, but then those circumstances are presented to the reader with such an alarming degree of authorial detachment that you almost have to wonder whether Mistry himself—fed up with the unending series of hardships his characters are required to endure—didn’t just raise his arms in the air and say, “Oh, fuck it.” And yet I could not tear myself away from this train wreck.

A Fine Balan
Jeffrey Keeten
“You see, we cannot draw lines and compartments and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.' He paused, considering what he had just said. 'Yes', he repeated. 'In the end, it's all a question of balance.’ ”

 photo ElephantBalancing_zpsda454c56.jpg
A Fine Balance

I sometimes take a moment to focus on the corner of my office. The way the two walls come together forming a line, a demarcation. I think of it as bringing
Riku Sayuj

“Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,

That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,

How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,

Your looped and windowed raggedness, defend you

From seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en

Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp;

Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,

That thou mayst shake the superflux to them

And show the heavens more just.”

~ King Lear

“Why did I dislike him so much, she asked herself? Where humans were concerned, the only emotion that
Ben Babcock
This is probably the most depressing book I have ever read in my entire life. Not only is its chronicling of four lives bleak and without the slightest hint of hope or redemption, but it does this with a comprehensive scope and an unforgiving manner. Even re-reading it, knowing what was going to happen, did not mitigate my sadness. If anything, it amplified my emotions, because for all of the good things that happen in this book, the moments of joy, I knew how it was all going to go wrong. And t ...more
Paul Bryant
Rohinton Mistry has written three whopping novels set in India, Such a Long Journey, A Fine Balance, and Family Matters, and they're all brilliant. He doesn't have pyrotechnic prose like the DeLillos and Pynchons, he's the tortoise to their hares, he plods on with his careful beautiful pictures of the details of people's lives, the complexities and the horrors and the unnoticed pools of affection, where the money comes from and where it goes, how they get through the day and how they don't - his ...more
This is a compelling novel. Mistry focuses the story around the lives and interactions of four main characters, who cross paths in an unnamed city in India in 1975 during the State of Emergency. Mistry is unsparing in details of how difficult, even cruel, life is for these characters. Their opportunities are constrained by caste, gender, government corruption locally and across the country, and greed. In detailed flashbacks, Mistry describes the pasts of the characters with such humanity that it ...more
This book was like a punch in the gut, or a hard kick to the balls. The kind where you double over dry heaving. That's how powerful it was.

Mistry's novel traces the lives of four people over the period of about one year when they come together under one roof. That one year is also year one into Indira Ghandi's State of Emergency, declared after the Indian Supreme Court rules her election illegal.

There are some excellent set peices. notgettingenough's review describes one. I won't repeat it here
Kelli Oliver George
WOW. Beautiful. Haunting. Sad. Compelling. Interesting. Educational. This book covers the stories of four characters living in India during the mid-70s during a time in which Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declares a State of Emergency and in its name, countless human rights violations were committed. I am not sure I can say much that would do this book proper justice. It certainly had what I refer to as The Linger Factor. After I finished it, I sat thinking about it for awhile. When I woke up at ...more
This was life? Or a cruel joke? He no longer believed that the scales would ever balance fairly. If his pan was not empty, if there was some little sustenance in it for his days and nights, it was enough for him.

This is one book that made me want to clutch the life I live, as some blanket of security, and hide within. I have never known what it is to live with such constant uncertainty. That one could be completely uprooted today, the next day, or any day. Each day of struggle, each day of bui
Maybe this review, about exploitation as much as anything, should have stayed on this site...


(I am told some sort of word minimum is necessary on this site. In order to conform....

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Jul 14, 2008 Savanna rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Savanna by: Sarah McConnell and Sara Lozito
Unlike many of the Indian novels I have read, this book focuses on the Emergency years under Indira Gandhi. Mistry’s characters live through the terrifying campaigns of forced sterilization and “beautification” (slum destruction). But there is more to the novel than the abuses that occurred during the Emergency. Mistry takes the reader into the world of rural India in the 1960s and 70s where challenges to the caste system often resulted in beating, maiming, and sometimes death. He describes the ...more
As I scramble for words to speak of this book and even manage to get hold of some. I wait till they fall from my tongue into the depths of infinite hopelessness.

And someday, I hope these words will find me again. These words, these thoughts will help me accept the despair that is this thing called life.
Stephen P
A book, along with two others which mysteriously appeared on my living room couch. My wife, equally at a loss had no idea where they came from. No one had been to the house previously, certainly not the dear family friend who just finished A Fine Balance and asked if I would read it. Reluctantly taking a break from Walser and The Tanners, I began my 600 page responsibility to a person who has always been there for us.

The book's first four pages were partially folded from use, not to signify any
Jul 07, 2012 Sue rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who enjoy history, historical fiction, India
What to say about such an overwhelming book.

It is a masterfully written story of four people who happen to come together in the 1970s in India. Of course there are more than four people involoved in this tale of everyday life, death, misery, occasional happiness, government excess and cruelty in the most densely populated country on earth. The four are: Dina, middle-aged at 30 and struggling to maintain her independence; Maneck a 17 year old student who will take a room in her apartment; and Ish
Four people from very different backgrounds cross their paths for a year during the seventies in India, and as we learn of their pasts, their presents and eventually of their futures, we get to know the political and social situation during that turbulent period in one of the poorest countries of the world.

I agree with most of the positive reviews when they say that this story is a faithful portrait of what might have been like to live in the India of the 70's and 80's (a complete nightmare), an
What an unreliable thing is time - when I want it to fly, the hours stick at me like glue. And what a changeable thing, too. Time is the twine to tie our lives into parcels of years and months. Or a rubber band stretched to suit our fancy. Time can be a pretty ribbon in a little girl's hair. Or the lines in your face,stealing your youthful colour and your hair. But in the end, time is a noose around the neck, strangling slowly.

I have just finished reading this book by an author who wrote the a
Jan 18, 2014 Jean rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone with a beating heart
This is one of my favorite books. It will absolutely gut you from beginning to end. The characters are complicated and melancholic but also lovable and deeply loved by one another. The suffering is so real; some succumb to it while others do not.

I read an article by Umberto Eco stating that a good book's title should be as neutral and non-informative as possible. The reader decides what she is reading about and what it means. In this case, though, I disagree. The title is necesarily spot-on, sa
My all time favourite book, without doubt! Magnificent, Educational, Interesting, Very Sad.....The setting is India in 1975-76, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, defying a court order calling for her resignation, declares a state of emergency and imprisons the parliamentary opposition as well as thousands of students, teachers, trade unionists and journalists. These events, along with the government's forced sterilization campaign, serve as backdrop for an intricate tale of four ordinary people ...more
Brilliant ending. Brought the whole thing to fruition, completion and made the title really resonate.

Now that I'm home and have a proper keyboard rather than that annoying little touchscreen I can let you share in my erudite meanderings. Actually, an iPod maybe just keeps me to the point. Brevity is much harder than rambling on. Anyway, I read most of this one thinking hmmmm, it's OK, not bad, well-drawn characters, good dialogue, nothing fancy or over-writerly in the style, what is there not t
I did enjoy this book very much, so I must give it four stars. How I determine the stars is that simple! Explaining why I feel as I do, that is the point of the review.

I came to care for people that are so very different from me. The author made their lives tangible to me. The author taught me about a time and place in such a way that it became MY world. You learn about life in Bombay during the 70s when Indira Gandhi implemented the "Emergency Rule", "Beautification" and enforced sterilization.
It is nice to meet an author who never lets you down. Rohinton Mistry is one of those authors whose fluid style, engaging characters and epic scope has never failed to impress me and so I've returned to his books again and again. In fact I think I may have now reached the end of his literary output and am now sadly reduced to sitting around, twiddling my opposable monkey thumbs and waiting for his next offering to be published.

Spanning nearly ten years, this epic tale of friendship set against
A sad and depressing novel. “A fine balance” by Mistry never maintains the balance between happy and sad tales. Nothing good happens in the characters life. The balance is completely outweighed by gloom and sadness.
It is one among those novels which you read because something makes you hold on to it, even though time and again you feel the plot (specifically the coincidences) is very filmy and many times irritating, the characters are not very true or real (there actions start bugging you) and s
I listened to the audio version of this book over the last couple months, and yesterday, when I finished it, I had to pull over to the side of the road because I was crying too hard to drive. I don’t know what to say about this book, except that it impacted me deeply, and that the characters were so real and human that they came completely alive for me- made me love them so much that I knew the book would end up gutting me. It’s a dark world, and the strongest, the survivors, they hang on with w ...more
"(The secret to survival) is to maintain a balance between hope and despair".

This quote between two strangers on a train in 1975 India. This devastating novel chronicles the intersecting of four lives during Indira Ghandi's Emergency measures, which included mass sterilization,
work camps and slum demolitions, just to name a few.
This novel was a real eye-opener to the gross injustices against the poor and helpless during this time. If you have any interest in India or
the caste system this is a m
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Đong Huynh
Rất khó để nói cuốn sách này hay "Những đứa con của nửa đêm" mới là kiệt tác của năm. Riêng tôi thì thích cuốn sách này hơn, đơn giản vì cách viết thực sự lôi cuốn, đến nỗi khó mà rứt ra được. Cùng với "những đứa con của nửa đêm", cuốn sách đã góp phần hoàn thiện bức tranh về đời sống con người ở Ấn Độ trong thời kỳ của "tình trạng khẩn cấp", thời kỳ của sự triệt sản, kiểm soát bùng nổ dân số, sự khủng bố, những xung đột về tôn giáo và sự cai trị vô cùng độc ác của giới cầm quyền, dưới quyền "mụ ...more

3 "tragedy diminished by histrionics" stars.

I know this is a good book and that Mr. Mistry is an excellent writer. The use of language is mostly elegant, vivid and the stories interweave in a logical and natural way. There was not a dull moment to be had in this sprawling saga set in 1970s India. The characters were likable and their struggles are real, heart-wrenching and horrendous.

I have a HUGE issue though with the presentation of the characters' emotional and psychological lives. Although a
Sep 10, 2014 Tania rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tania by: Tonya
You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair

This book has been on my reading list for a very long time, and I’m so glad I finally got round to it. It’s not an easy book to read. There is so much heartache and sorrow in these 600 pages I actually had to take breaks from reading quite often. Although it also tells of love, acceptance and friendship, this just enhanced the pervasive sadness of the rest of the story.

I love how the author describes India with all of its bizarre and so
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What did you think of the ending? 14 224 Jan 02, 2015 07:12AM  
CBC Books: * 1995 - A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry 42 74 Oct 19, 2014 06:25AM  
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Rohinton Mistry is considered to be one of the foremost authors of Indian heritage writing in English. Residing in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, Mistry belongs to the Parsi Zoroastrian religious minority.

Mistry’s first novel, Such a Long Journey (1991), brought him national and international recognition. Mistry’s subsequent novels have achieved the same level of recognition as his first. His second n
More about Rohinton Mistry...
Family Matters Such a Long Journey Swimming Lessons and Other Stories from Firozsha Baag The Scream Threebies: Rohinton Mistry

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“Flirting with madness was one thing; when madness started flirting back, it was time to call the whole thing off.” 227 likes
“ have to use your failures as stepping stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair. In the end it’s all a question of balance.” 214 likes
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