Z's Reviews > A Fine Balance

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
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's review
Aug 16, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: favourites
Recommended for: anyone looking for a deep and complex read
Read in January, 2006

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 sun on a very grey day, but it's not a happy story, and it makes no pretensions to being one. The heartwrenching ending had me involuntarily wondering what kind of person would want to write a bleak tale like that -- and then I understood Mistry's message through the book, that this is fiction, but not made-up; this is a novel, but larger-than-life; this is yesterday, persisting into today and reaching out its long clammy fingers into tomorrow.

Life's vicissitudes toss four unlikely companions into one living space, a dingy little flat, in the "City by the Sea," Bombay. Widow Dina Dalal has lived for decades in solitude, barely making ends meet, watching the sun rise and set everyday with the same transparent indifference; college-student Maneck Kohlah has left his much-loved life and his family's little general store in the Himalayas to study air-conditioning and refrigeration in the city, a course that his father believes will equip him to deal with a world that is hell-bent on destroying nature to further technology; tailors Ishvar and Omprakash Darji, uncle and nephew, have left their village, and their traditional "untouchable" occupation of tanning animal hides to seek their fortunes in this city of dreams and earn enough money to go home and live more comfortably. This is the story of how these four people find family in each other, find friendship, laughter, and a courage to struggle and persevere despite all their troubles. This is the story of shattered dreams, of Indira Gandhi's cruel Emergency, of how each person's life is webbed and entangled in its own drama, of caste, poverty, and a positive survival instinct corroded into a dog-eat-dog mentality that strangulates, just as time itself does.

Many parts of the book brought tears to my eyes, but by the time I finished it, I was actually sobbing. Somewhere in these six hundred pages the reader becomes friends with the characters, begins to share their joys and sorrows, and desperately wish for a happy ending that he/she knows, deep down, is not to be.

This is a life-changing read, and one that I would be truly sorry to see anyone miss out on.
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02/13/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-22 of 22) (22 new)

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message 1: by Peggy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:02PM) (new)

Peggy first let me say I am so happy to see you here..
WOO*HOO.. and then this book Fine Balance is one of my all time books.. it just took me there.. and what a place to be.. This and probably The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck grabbed me like no others..
O.. I'm so going to find some good books from you now..
and you can try writing here too if you have time...
I think there is an author section....

Tania Ashby doherty I've not long read this book and when I read your review it mirrored exactly how I felt, very grim yes, yet moving.

Sonia Gomes Z, I could never review this book as well as you have, your review encapsulated everything I wanted to say. Thank you

Krista Well put! I have tried several times to write a formal review on this wonderful book to no avail.

Preeti Great review! I read this a few years ago and your review brought back my exact feelings while I was reading.

Vish Gt overjoyed glimpses of the sun on a very grey day... exactly the same words passed through my head when i sat to write a review... i guess i shall refrain now.

Lisa Beautifully reviewed.

Veerangna I felt exactly the same way...when Dina starts sharing the flat with the darjis....as her equation with them changes, so does my liking for her ! you can't help but get involved with each character's life...their struggles, their hopes and their disappointment....excellent "novel".

Veerangna also, beautiful review !

Molly i also sobbed after finishing it. when my sister asked why, i simply said "we have it so easy, life is so hard for some people"

message 11: by Ankit (new) - added it

Ankit Agrawal Just your review makes me read this book. Thanks friend

Madan Kanti totally agree with your reveiew..Z.. it really makes you cry!!! How can tragedy befall few with such alarming recurrence?

message 13: by Daya (new) - rated it 5 stars

Daya i have never read a book quite like this. i just finished it and i am speechless. i have no words to describe the emotions this book brought out in me. i lived in india for ten years of my life and i have seen it through many different eyes and perspectives, and although it is a country filled with an incredible joy, love and beauty, it lays on a foundation of tragedy; this book encapsulates those feelings for me. a dilemma, a contradiction, an emotional rollercoaster; india is a ride- and so is this book! once you embark on mistry's journey you come out of it forever changed. a deeply moving book that in some way or another has left an imprint on my soul.

Donna I've read this book twice, and will read it again...it is filled with history of India during the partcion, but most of all the people who were affected. The charaters in this novel, I will never forget.

message 15: by Joel (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joel Bayan "A Fine Balance" and "Family Matters" on my list!

message 16: by Ace (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ace Varkey Z, One of the reasons I sobbed is because of the veracity in the novel. No matter Mistry's disclaimer, the city is Mumbai, and I could clearly see every event taking place. That he spins it into a mesmerizing story shows us his alchemy as a writer.

message 17: by Amie (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amie Grillo I couldn't agree more with this review.

Shruthi Sathish You have nailed the review.. I feel the same about every word that you have said..

Vivek Sood Very good review, I think you described every nuance, every irony very very well. It makes me want to read your other book reviews.

Elizabeth Brown This book was recommended to me some years ago, and I am so grateful. It is one of most poignant tales I have ever read. Thank you for your review, it included everything I couldn't put into words to express what a wonderful author Rohinton Mistry is. The scene that sticks in my mind is the final, fleeting encounter between Maneck and Ishvar.

message 21: by Danielle (new) - added it

Danielle Adkins Your review was exactly what I needed to move A Fine Balance to the book I'll read next spot on my list. I can't wait. Thank you!

Simone Campbell Brilliant review,it sums up my feelings exactly. My friend leant me this book 10 years ago and insisted I read it. After finishing it I asked him why he made me read it, it was heart-breaking. But still, after 10 years, this book has stayed with me. It is a true reflection of life.

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