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Home » Books » General » Entertainment » Asian

A Fine Balance

By Rohinton Mistry

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Format: Paperback, 624 pages, Main Edition
Published In: United Kingdom, 14 October 2006
In mid-1970s urban India - a chaos of wretchedness on the streets and slogans in the offices - a chain of circumstances tosses four varied individuals together in one small flat. Stubbornly independent Dina, widowed early, takes in Maneck, the college-aged son of a more prosperous childhood friend and, more reluctantly, Ishvar and Om, uncle and nephew tailors fleeing low-caste origins and astonishing hardships. The reader first learns the characters' separate, compelling histories of brief joys and abiding sorrows, then watches as barriers of class, suspicion, and politeness are gradually dissolved. Even more affecting than Mistry's depictions of squalor and grotesque injustice is his study of friendships emerging unexpectedly, naturally. The novel's coda is cruel and heart-wrenching but deeply honest.

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A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is a subtle and compelling narrative about four unlikely characters brought together in just the kind of unforeseeable circumstances that mid-1970s India was capable of producing.

About the Author

Rohinton Mistry was born in 1952 and grew up in Bombay, India, where he also attended university. He later emigrated to Canada, where he began a course in English and Philosophy at the University of Toronto. He is the author of three novels and one collection of short stories. His debut novel, Such a Long Journey (1991), won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book and the Governor General's Award, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It was made into an acclaimed feature film in 1998. His second novel, A Fine Balance (1995), won many prestigious awards, as well as being shortlisted for the Booker Prize, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize. His collection of short stories,Tales from Firozsha Baag, was published in 1987.


"'One of India's finest living novelists.' Observer"

EAN: 9780571230587
ISBN: 057123058X
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.6 x 3.7 centimetres (0.36 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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4 review(s)
All Reviews
Jade on
This book is packed right to the last page, gave me an almost unending insight into India in the mid- 1970's (in which it is set), brilliant and definately 'compelling', will keep you on your feet with the four main characters and the mastery used in the capturing of their unlikely lives intertwining.
Angela on
An incredible achievement of a book. It weaves the characters lives together in a way that is completely gripping and absorbing. The events that occur and the outcomes are unforgettable. Skillfully and insightfully written. One of my favourite books set in India, this is definitely in the must read category.
Erin on
Set in the mid 1970′s in India during the Internal Emergency, it weaves the story of four people who develop an unlikely friendship.

The first part of the book introduces us to Ishvar and Om, an uncle and nephew duo of tailors who leave village life after tragedy to find work in the city. Their story entwines with Dina Dilal’s after they take on consignment sewing for her in her apartment. Her boarder Maneck is the fourth character.

And so we begin the unfolding story which gives insights into timeless India, but also gives account of injustices which occurred during the political turmoil of the 1970′s.

“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.”

Despair. Yes, this book deals with despair. The despair of poverty, crooked politics and the injustice of caste. But it is interwoven with hope, and in the face of despair, the beauty of humanity shows itself against the backdrop of ugliness. The characters are well developed and all throughout I hoped for better for them. I hoped they could overcome the injustices raging against them. And yet, though the darkness seemed to triumph, and the atrocities that they suffered just kept coming, this book was a compassionate and sensitive picture of the human ability to endure. Once again, suffering seems to bring out the best and worst in people, and both are so very human and makes us what we are.

A solid long read of 600+ pages, I think my recent reading drought has broken. A great novel.
anne on
I enjoyed this book, it is very sad and yet it amazed and inspired me to appreciate the luck of the life i was born into, where this is always opportunity.

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