A Fine Balance
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A Fine Balance

4.32 of 5 stars 4.32  ·  rating details  ·  68,336 ratings  ·  5,083 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
129th out of 5,382 books — 36,679 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 323 books — 1,149 voters

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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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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
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
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...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
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
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
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...more
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...more
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...more
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....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...more
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...more
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...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...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 09, 2013 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...more
May 30, 2008 sandra rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Beth Haymaker
A flowing and epic book with excellent characterization and masterful narrative. I was hooked.

Oprah likes it, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily bad. Just deeply wounded.
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...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
"You see, you 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."

Thus, one of the minor characters in this book tells us the meaning of the book. Without using those words in any other context, Mistry well conveys those emotions. I could ask for more hope, less despair, but would this book have meant as much?

The circumstances in India of the tim...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 09, 2007 Preeta rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: people interested in real Indian writing
I think this is one of the best Indian novels published in the last 15 years, perhaps second only to The God of Small Things (caveat: I haven't read The Inheritance of Loss). [I'm using "Indian" broadly, to refer to India and the Indian diaspora.] It's not perfect -- there were times when I felt it rambled, and I generally like rambling but some of this irritated me because it was too expository, too much (I think) a concession to people who know nothing about India. But this book is so honest a...more
Aug 22, 2007 Len rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: not for those with heart ailments
Recommended to Len by: Madhav Nair
the book was given to me by madhav, my indian friend of five years and still going. no introductions about the book, just that it's one book that i should read if i wanted to know more about india and the caste system and other things that matter. the story is set during indira gandhi's regime. it is teeming with layers of decades-old oppresion and discrimination, aggravated by a repressing political climate.

i never really thought a book could break one's heart. this one did. if there's anythin...more
This book was depressing, almost overly so. What was the point of completely disintegrating every main character and forcing them into various types of hells, both living and dead? The worst part was while there wasn't obvious potential for happiness, there was a definite trend of small improvements throughout the story, at least till the point that the train hit the bulwark and left no hope of reparation. It was a very accurate historical fiction, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. I may rere...more
Odai Alsaeed
مليئة هذه الرواية بحشود من التفاصيل تتمازج حبكتها بشكل ثري مع قصص الألم والمعاناة...الهند ثاني أكبر مدينة في كثافتها السكانية وأحد أفقر دول العالم تقرأ بشكل جديد في رواية (بين اليأس والألم)رؤية ممتعة جسدها الكاتب لأحوال العوز والفقر بمتناقضاتها و غريزة الحياة.....رواية روينتون ميستري مرشحة في القائمة القصيرة لجائزة بوكر العالمية ....ممتعة
Himanshu Rathi
"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...more
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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
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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“...you 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.” 162 likes
“Flirting with madness was one thing; when madness started flirting back, it was time to call the whole thing off.” 143 likes
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