Book Reviews of A Fine Balance

A Fine Balance
A Fine Balance
Author: Rohinton Mistry
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ISBN-13: 9781400030651
ISBN-10: 140003065X
Publication Date: 11/30/2001
Pages: 624
Rating:
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 322

4.1 stars, based on 322 ratings
Publisher: Vintage
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

68 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed A Fine Balance on + 22 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
I have to say, even as brutal as this book is it rarely leaves my mind. It is an amzing look at life in India and makes me so grateful for where I was born. It is a very descriptive and huanting story. One of the top 10 books I've read
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 205 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 6
This book was very well written and extremely powerful. It was also very depressing and sad. It was about a time in India that I knew very little about. The characters and descriptions came to life for me and I was unable to forget them long after I finished the book. If you are looking for a "feel good" book with a happy ending look elsewhere. Our book club read this last year and we all agreed that it was an awesome book but certainly not "fun". It had an impact on us all.
reviewed A Fine Balance on
Helpful Score: 5
Writing is clear, story flows well, carefully crafted dialog gives reader a wonderfully nuanced view of personal relationships between Indians from very different caste backgrounds. Mistry's prose certainly gives a sense of India as a struggling developing nation with lots of historical baggage. This vivid narrative transports us and we have an initial sense of wonder.

Mistry begins an intriguing story; however, for me the story drags, and then flounders under 600 plus pages. My general lack of interest in the characters fate made it hard to pull through the larger story. Oprah books seem to like the dark, struggling to overcome adversity themes which work best if you're invested in the main characters. A classic India story in the making.

Unlike Oprah, "A Fine Balance" did not strike the fine balance where I would generally recommend it for most readers. I would mainly recommend this story for the more patient reader of character driven novels, or someone with a clear interest in India, or in class division.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 84 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
Was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did...the cover information didn't make it sound that great, but read it because it is on the Oprah list. Was glad I did...opened my eyes to the things that go on in third world countries.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 37 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Difficult and disturbing -- vivid scenes that have stuck with me for a long time.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 242 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I forgot I read this book several years ago but I liked it so much I didn't mind reading it again. It's realistically set during the time of Mrs. Gandhi's rule (1975). The government then declared a repressive State of Emergency. In the midst of this 4 strangers meet and end up living together in the same apartment. At first they act defensively towards each other but as time goes by, they grow to sincerely care about each other. I really got a feeling of India from this book. India's government, run by a bribe system at all levels as well as a caste and gangster mentality, affects each of the 4 characters differently. It's corrupt power against the powerless. Forced sterilizations, forced homelessness, selling of children to become beggars, mutilations, and even torture and murder are committed mostly by the powerful with no repercussions. The poor and powerless feel helpless to change anything so they form communities among themselves, often helping each other with just the basics of living. A great book whose author has won many literary awards. I highly recommend it.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 58 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This book is well written and I stayed with it 'til the bitter end. I cared a great deal about the characters and was left with a feeling of despair when I finished this book. Definitely not a feel good book. It does however stay in-line with other Oprah Book Club selections that were depressing: Map of the World (which I loved but found depressing) and This Much Is True (Loved it!) So if you're looking for a good in-depth character driven story of life in India as well as a book full of anguish--this book is for you.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 9 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Beautifully written and very depressing. Would not read it again.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 26 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
One of my favorites of this year's reading. This is an expansive narrative that follows a handful of main characters through unimaginable and at times, inhumane, times in India. Yet, love and humor followed our two tailors, their special friend and the student. It was magical how the four main characters came together in this tale. I did not want the book to end!
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 10 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
What was I thinking? was my first thought when I received this lengthly book. This book is too large to get through quickly! In my quest to read a book from every country, I chose this for India. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. While reading it, I felt I could better understand the social dilemmas that different people groups face and gained a compassion I had never had. This book is absolutely touching, and a book that I am reminded of often due to the significant impact it had on me.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 17 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This is a wonderfully written book that weaves together the stories of several people in Indira Ghandi's India in 1975. I loved his characters and didn't want the book to end.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
One of my favorite books that I always mention when people ask what my favorites are. It'll always be in my collection. Very touching story.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 29 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I loved this story of hope, struggles, friendships, more struggles, and the resolve that love between friends is, after all, what is most important. I felt so many emotions as I became fully involved with the two tailors' lives and then with their friends and their encounters. I sensed their incredible joy when receiving some unexpected good and felt their disappointment when they so often were wronged. But those contrasts were incredible! That made the book. It's thick...but read it...you'll want it to be even longer.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 67 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This is a great book, I was so into it I shut everything else out. It is right up their with Dickens.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 10 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
From Oprah's book club! This is a sad, touching book that deftly illustrates the struggle for independence in India. I'd rank this up there with a Maughm or Hemingway.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 64 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I read this book while in and out of the hospital. It would have been better for me at that time if it weren't quite so depressing!
Man's inhumanity to man...this is part of what the book is about. Also, man's ability to reach out to other men. There are many characters in this book and how they relate to the problems presented to them, as well as how they related to each other uncer both good and adverse circumstances...that's what the book is about. Even the strangest and oddest people are included in the cast, but Mistry makes them all believable and in some cases, endearing.
I would heartily recommend this book with the caveat that it is not a happily ever after Maeve Binchy kind of story...this is instead a Rohinton Mistry huge slice of life.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 24 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A nicely written account of the lives of several people in India in the in the 1970's. The lives of 4 people intermesh in a way that is beautiful and also tragically sad. For me, it was a window into a world I had never known anything about, told from the point of view of people with whom I could fully relate.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 9 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
The time is 1975. The place an unknamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a state of emergency, in whose upheavles four strangers-a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violenceof their native village-will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 79 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
From Library Journal:

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.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 8 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This book is spectacular. One of my top 10 all time books. It's a great story of 4 people in the 70's in India who's lives intertwine for a short time. It is tragic and gives a clear picture of India at this time. This book is rich and wonderful, you will not want to put it down.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 24 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the works of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures 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 will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.

As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 21 more book reviews
Though the book is very well written, for me it was hard to take. It's depressing reading. I'll have to try picking it up again later
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 11 more book reviews
On the list of "books to read before you die".
Highly acclaimed.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 9 more book reviews
i'm afraid that writing a review for this book won't do it any justice. it is much like pictures from some magical place that you have been - for me, alaska's glacier bay. both are things that should be experienced in all their magnitude and strength, not just seen or read. the experience of a fine balance was one with sorrow and joy, anger and compassion, that can be genuinely felt for the characters, the culture and the country. this is a book that drags you kicking and screaming through the trenches of cruelty and suffering, and soaring through the beauty of the culture.

in the social and political turmoil of inidira ghandi's time, four people are brought together into a single household. their story moves among their lives, past and present, to mold together into a single tale of heroic love. dina is an independent widow trying to make ends meet without invoking the help of her overbearing brother. maneck, a young student, is forced from the countryside and the family that he adores, to attend university, for the opportunity that it will afford him in the future. ishvar and om, two tailors with a painful and unforunate past from the caste violence of their small hometown, are in search of better fortune in the city. as their lives intersect in a single apartment, for a moment, time stands still. despite the pain and cruelty that is at every corner, there is a genuine joy for life that can be felt. this book will sweep you up, take you in and break your heart, but it is an amazing journey that needs to be taken.

i walked away from this book feeling as if i had just experienced something very profound, much more than just words and characters in a book. it was a captivating journey, a stunning narrative, and a beautiful panorama of the culture and the times.
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Beutifully written. I was sad to finish this book.
reviewed A Fine Balance on
I read this book two years ago and it still haunts me. It's one of the best books I've read and gives a realistic and eye-opening view of life in India before, during and after partition. The characters are still vivid in my mind. The story would make a great movie.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 935 more book reviews
Satisfying novel about the nature of families and friendship, set in India after its independence from British Rule, through the partitioning of Pakistan and the death of Indira Ghandi.
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This is as good as a book gets on India. It absolutely pegs the intricacies of the caste system and how it still plays a role in everyday life there.
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This was a beautifully written book, but very difficult for me to read because of the gruesome details of the lives of the characters, and life in India at that time.
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I enjoyed this very much.
I like books like Michenor's Alaska & Hawaii, Memoirs of a Geisha, etc - novels that are interesting and also give me a window into other cultures. This book falls into that category.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 5 more book reviews
I enjoyed how Mistry goes back into time to depict each character's life...and directs each individual's path to meet up with the other characters of the story. True, this is not the typical "uplifting" book, but there are some very good values he expounds upon; sometimes, life throws these twists and turns into one's life and he shows how one can deal with it. There are thrilling moments, and then the more detailed passages that needs some attention in order to put it all together. Very well written.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 25 more book reviews
Author's lyrical writing style, beautiful phrasing creates rich human characters. Lots of characters to get to know, so get a list from Wikipedia or similar and tick each off as he or she is introduced. Then, listen to each tell her / his story. It / they all come together in a cycle of storytelling. No wasted characters, no wasted storylines. A hit with my book discussion group, though some found some of the situations gut-wrenching, disturbing.
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I found A Fine Balance to be unbalanced, which is probably the true way in India. After all, the book opens with a quote ending with, "This tragedy is not a fiction. All is true." A Fine Balance was heartbreaking. Any happiness that made its way into the story line was soon blotted out by tragedy, so I would think the author should have titled it A Fine Imbalance: Corruption and Cruelty Win.

The story follows four main characters: an unhappy college student who feels rejected by his parents, a widow who has mostly cut ties with her family in an attempt to establish her independence from her overbearing brother, and an uncle-nephew pair of poor tailors who have come to the city to reverse their fortune and escape the grasp of a depraved rich landowner. Don't bother hoping for happiness for any of the four, who eventually become quite attached to one another. You will be left disappointed.

A Fine Balance left me feeling despondent, disheartened, and even hopeless, but also grateful for the life I get to lead. It was an amazing and fascinating story, educating me on so much about India, and spurring me to learn more, and for that I am glad I read it, but it is also dark and tragic and mournful. I am angry with the author for not allowing his characters one moment of happiness without dashing it in the next chapter. As a fiction, couldn't he have let just one mirthful event come to pass? In his quest for truth in fiction, the answer was a resounding no.
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Book Description
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 uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.

As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.

My Review
This is a beautifully written book about life in India during the mid-70's. The characters are well-drawn so much so that you can feel a real connection to them. We get a picture of the awful way of life under Prime Minister Gandhi's The State of Emergency, the 3rd world economics, the political, social and religious conditions of the caste system and the strength it takes for the human spirit to endure. This book is a must read as it is a real piece of art that will stay with you long after you finish the last page.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 344 more book reviews
Do not miss reading this book. I was completely immersed in the plot and characters of this book from the beginning. I rarely think that a book merits a five-star rating, but this is a true treasure. I learned a lot about India and its politics as an adjunct to the lives of the characters. There was no sermonizing, moralizing or self-pity; however, our limited understanding of the conditions under which they lived made their actions and reactions very real. I found the writing to be tight and exactly right for the tone of the book - no spare sentiments that weren't necessary to achieve the required insights. The ending is superlative - it is the way the book had to end in order to complete our knowledge of the lives that were lived. The utter despair is beyond comprehension for those of us who live with a sense of security. It will be difficult to find a worthy successor now that I have finished this remarkable book.
reviewed A Fine Balance on
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 uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 66 more book reviews
One of the best books I have ever read. ONe of the best discussions my book club has ever had.
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Very engaging story although sad.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 67 more book reviews
This book is one of my favorites. Very descriptive of India during the Emergency. It was very heartbreaking to see how people live and cope in dire poverty. Also, mandatory vascetomies the government had ordered was just wrong and ruined many able bodied men. From this book I feel like I have a better sense of how Indian life is day to day.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 30 more book reviews
I didn't really expect to enjoy this book, but it was a page turner. I learned so much about the lives of people in India in the 1970s, and was happy to find it wasn't about colonial India. It was not elegantly written, but packed a lot of stories into the narrative. It made me appreciate my easy life. What spoiled people we Americans are!
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 20 more book reviews
This is a great book about the caste system in India. though due to subject content. can be somewhat hard to read, knowing that these attrocities occure throughout the world...an eye opener for sure. and a wonderfully written book.
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Great Book! Could not put it down.
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The first book I've read about anything Indian, and a great introduction for me!
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Excellent, but very graphic and disturbing. Definitely not a light read, but fascinating story.
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this book is on oprah's book club list, its very well written and very deep. this is a story of friendship and love in india.
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An incredible story of the lives of four people, individually and collectively. Set in 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 and union members. The charecters come from different levels of society and religions and each of them have a compelling story to tell.
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fascinating novel; great insights into the life of ordinary people in India
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Great description of a far away and unfamiliar place. This author is one of those writers who know how to say it, in their own very original and interestng way. One of the better Oprah books.
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An excellent character study, very realistic and sympathetic. The ending was a crushing disappointment after 600 pages of falling in love with Om, Ishvar, Maneck and Dina, but the pages that precede that make up probably the best book I've read in a long time.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 89 more book reviews
This is an excellent book. Although it is fiction it is based on life in India in 1975. When you read this book, you realize own wonderful it is to live in the USA. From the back cover: 'The place ia an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a Stage of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers--a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.' Don't read this book if you are depressed or read this book depressed to realize how lucky you are!
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 8 more book reviews
Beautifully written and often terribly depressing novel of life in India. Memorable characters.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 14 more book reviews
This is one of the most beautiful, absorbing, elegantly written books I have ever read. It takes the simplest matters of life and makes them luminous and riveting. I rushed to find another book written by Mistry (his name is actually Rohinton Mistry, not as listed.)
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This is one of my all time favorite books.There is so much detail about the lives of the people in the book, I felt like I was right there with them.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 5 more book reviews
603 pages and i was sad to see it end! A very good read - very different from anything i have read. Somewhat sad, but a different story to be told.
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This was an intense, compelling story.
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Wow - I'll be thinking about this one for awhile. Very memorable characters - almost feel like I know them.
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a beautifully written book. the characters are engaging. you hope and despair along with them in this finely crafted story. truly, a modern classic.
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Very interesting, sad.
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I did not like this book so much. I have really enjoyed most of the Oprah's book club selections, but this one disappointed me. I did not finish it because it just didn't hold my interest.
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A good inside look at India's caste system and how it was changing in 1975 on.
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One of my favorite novels that I've ever read in my life.
reviewed A Fine Balance on + 344 more book reviews
Do not miss reading this book. I was completely immersed in the plot and characters of this book from the beginning. I rarely think that a book merits a five-star rating, but this is a true treasure. I learned a lot about India and its politics as an adjunct to the lives of the characters. There was no sermonizing, moralizing or self-pity; however, our limited understanding of the conditions under which they lived made their actions and reactions very real. I found the writing to be tight and exactly right for the tone of the book - no spare sentiments that weren't necessary to achieve the required insights. The ending is superlative - it is the way the book had to end in order to complete our knowledge of the lives that were lived. The utter despair is beyond comprehension for those of us who live with a sense of security. It will be difficult to find a worthy successor now that I have finished this remarkable book.
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Interesting read.
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An Oprah's Book Club book; a touching story that takes place in India in 1975.
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This was an incredible story, gruesome at times, but incredible. It kept my interest all the way to the end.
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Oprah's Book Club!
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Read the beginning, it is quite a tome and didn't get through it... But a selection from Oprah's book club.
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Oprah's Book Club picks another winner :)