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A Fine Balance Paperback – 19 Oct 2006

395 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (19 Oct. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057123058X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571230587
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 3.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (395 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

In 1975, in an unidentified Indian city, Mrs Dina Dalal, a financially pressed Parsi widow in her early 40s sets up a sweatshop of sorts in her ramshackle apartment. Determined to remain financially independent and to avoid a second marriage, she takes in a boarder and two Hindu tailors to sew dresses for an export company. As the four share their stories, then meals, then living space, human kinship prevails and the four become a kind of family, despite the lines of caste, class and religion. When tragedy strikes, their cherished, newfound stability is threatened, and each character must face a difficult choice in trying to salvage their relationships. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

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

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

230 of 233 people found the following review helpful By E. Hardy on 20 May 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a truly great book. It chronicles the story of 4 individuals from very different sectors of the Indian Caste system.

Not only does it accurately portray the political and social situation in India in the 1970s,it reflects the predudices within the upper castes and the fatalistic attitude of the lower castes, formed from their religious beliefs that suffering is their destiny and the reward will be in the afterlife.

This story is overwhelmingly sad and also shocking as the reader can identify the ethical question of human suffering for a possibly laudable goal (in this case it is population control). However, the novel is also uplifting in a peculiar way; that individuals who struggle so hard to exist in appalling conditions can find joy in their lives is humbling. It also allows the reader to identify with the predudices and to see a situation from another side. Maybe at the end of the book, the reader feels that they have grown a little in spirit and have the capacity to be a 'better' person as a result.

For me, the mark of a great book is one that remains with you long after the back page is read. This is such a book.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Demob Happy on 26 Jun. 2007
Format: Paperback
Rohinton Mistry is an unusual voice in contemporary literature. His compassion for his characters is evident throughout his writing, going to great lengths to create tangible, likeable subjects. Whereas many other recent booker-shortlisted authors have either tried to radically play with narrative form (David Mitchell) or are ostentatious in the style of their prose (John Banville), Mistry is an invisible presence in his novels. Although he is primarily addressing the bigger picture of 1970s India under the tyrannical 'Emergency' powers imposed by Indira Ghandi, the story is told very much on the human scale. Despite some of the horrors depicted in 'A Fine Balance', Mistry does not pummel the reader with them, and the comic side of the tragedy is never far away. The lightness of touch should not be confused with flippancy, but a taste for revealing the absurd in what was everyday life for many Indians at the time and indeed now. From the monstrosity of forced sterilisation to unbelievably brutal caste violence, the author prefers modest clarity in description, allowing room for the reader's mind to do the rest. As one character observes of another: "his sentences poured out like perfect seams, holding the garment of his story together without drawing attention to the stitches". This metaphor of tailoring is central in the book; the sewing together of disparate pieces to make something beautiful, greater than a sum of its parts. There is something of Dickens in this allegorical framework, and the life and humour brought to the poor and destitute.

'A Fine Balance' begins with the unlikely union of four people from different ends of the class spectrum, and spends the first half of the book looking back into their lives.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Miss Kiki on 10 Feb. 2007
Format: Paperback
I was recommended this book over a year ago by someone who told me it was the best book he had ever read. Naturally I was intrigued and made a mental note to read it.

Finally about three weeks ago I bought the book while in India and read it within a few days. From the outset I was completely mesmerised. Mistry describes ordinary life in 1970s Mumbai (the name of the city is never mentioned but one can tell it is Mumbai from various references to parts of the city) with amazing clarity and insight; the characters are very real and I felt as though I was part of the story myself rather than just the reader of it.

I found this book totally absorbing: funny, uplifting, often shocking and ultimately tragic.

I've been thinking about it a lot since finishing it and after much consideration I think I have to agree that it is the most amazing book I've ever read...
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Vardit Kohn on 24 Mar. 2007
Format: Paperback
Novels with the quality of 'A Fine Balance' do not often get written nowadays. It is on par with the best creations by Balzac (quoted in the beginning of the novel), Dickens and Zola. Mistry's language stands in a class of its own - I would read the book for the joy of his phenomenal linguistic skills alone. The plot is utterly engaging and vivid - you can see the mountains, smell the poverty, feel the pain. In this day and age of quick gratifications and The Goodies Always Win Hollywood mentality, 'A Fine Balance' is a sombre literary masterpiece with a rather depressing (yet correct) observation about life: The Goodies don't always win, and the Baddies don't always get punished. As the name indicates, however, this sad observation is balanced by Mistry's subtle indication of man's exceptional ability to find a ray of sunshine even in the most dire of circumstances. This novel has entered my Top 10 Ever, and I can't wait to read Mistry's other creations. Chapeau, Mistry!
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70 of 72 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 April 2001
Format: Paperback
By far the best novel I have ever read. It is a joy to envision the milieu for this epic novel. You cannot help but be drawn to the characters and their plight. An often moving and emotional insight into the lives of India's street beggars and an excellent reminder of how deeply the caste system is embedded in this lost society. The portrayal of corruption, inherent at every juncture of 1970-80's India, leaves the reader with a sense of injustice and an added impetus to read on in the hope things may get better. A marvellous and compelling book, and a must on any bookshelf!
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