A Fine Balance

A Novel

Average Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.
A Fine Balance
A portrait of India featuring four characters. Two are tailors who are forcibly sterilized, one is a student who emigrates, and the fourth is a widowed seamstress who decides to hang on. A tale of cruelty, political thuggery and despair by an Indian from Toronto, author of Such a Long Journey.

Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 1997
Edition: 1st Vintage International ed
ISBN: 140003065X
Branch Call Number: FIC M
Characteristics: 603 p. ; 21 cm.


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Mar 11, 2015
  • shaguftajj rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Excellent book. The sad thing is in some parts of India this caste system still exist and upper caste still do horrible things to lower caste. India can never progress unless it gets rid of this caste system. I literally cried by reading some parts. It's a fiction but based on facts.

Feb 08, 2015
  • cuwabig1 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

One of the best books on India I have read. It explores a variety of characters in various socioeconomic groups around the time of the Partition (1947) which allows us to see how these events affected different parts of Indian society. Well written, accessible for persons who are not familiar with Indian culture or history. It provides a good introduction to the country by giving a little bit of the history that sets the stage for modern India, plus a little insight into a variety of characters and their struggles and motivations.

Nov 13, 2014

Profoundly moving

Oct 28, 2014

I really enjoyed this book. The characters are rich. It took me a couple chapters to really start liking it, but at the end I just sat and stared at the book and cried. I can't even imagine growing up in India 4 decades ago could leave anyone with hope for the future and want to continue on. Kudos for the author.

Aug 17, 2014
  • Eosos rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

I was inspired to read all the winners of the Giller Prize as a way to expand my genre horizons. This book is the 1995 winner.

I did not enjoy this story at all. It was almost entirely bleak, dismal and boring.
Though I am impressed that the author could keep me interested enough to finish a book that is just so obviously not to my taste. I think that shows a great storytelling talent.

Jul 25, 2014

An excellent book. I recommended it to friends as a wonderful read, but not necessarily the happiest book in the world.

Nov 14, 2013
  • stkim0 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This book has to be read. I never liked any of the books I read in school, until one of my high school English teachers assigned this to me. Mind blowing. 10 years later, I still remember this book and the emotions you get while reading. Would recommend this to anyone without hesitation.

Sep 17, 2013
  • deodaratreefarmer rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This book deserves a spot on the Classics shelf. The writing, descriptions, setting and characters are beautifully developed, if heartbreaking. This one will stay with readers years after it is finished.

Jul 19, 2013
  • Stiefvater rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

After reading many "happily every after" stories, this one shocked me. It's beautifully written and brings to our attention the hardships some people have to go through. A really intricate story and requires all of your attention. I recommend it!

Apr 05, 2013
  • threelions rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I don't read a lot of fiction but this was brilliant.

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Jul 18, 2011

bidbid thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

Sep 16, 2007
  • Japanda rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Japanda thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


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Mar 03, 2012
  • randallflagg rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

From Wikipedia

The book exposes the changes in Indian society from independence in 1947 to the Emergency called by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Mistry is generally critical of P. M. Gandhi in the book. Interestingly, however, Gandhi is never referred to by name by any of the characters, and is instead called simply "the prime minister". The characters, from diverse backgrounds, are all brought together by economic forces changing India.

Ishvar and Omprakash's family is part of the Chamaar caste, who traditionally cured leather and were considered untouchable. In an attempt to break away from the restrictive caste system, Ishvar's father apprentices his sons Ishvar and Narayan to a Muslim tailor, Ashraf Chacha, in a nearby village, and so they became tailors. As a result of their skills, which are also passed on to Narayan's son Omprakash (Om), Ishvar and Om move to Mumbai to get work, by then unavailable in the town near their village because a pre-made clothing shop has opened.

Maneck, from a small mountain village in northern India, moves to the city to acquire a college certificate "as a back-up" in case his father's soft drink business is no longer able to compete after the building of a highway near their village.

Dina, from a traditionally wealthy family, maintains tenuous independence from her brother by living in the flat of her deceased husband, who was a chemist.

Dina distances herself from the political ferment of the period: "Government problems and games played by people in power," she tells Ishvar. "It doesn't affect ordinary people like us" (Mistry, 86). But in the end it does affect all of them, drastically.

At the beginning of the book, the two tailors, Ishvar and Omprakash, are on their way to the flat of Dina Dalal via a train. While on the train, they meet a college student named Maneck Kohlah, who coincidentally is also on his way to the flat of Dina Dalal to be a boarder. They become friends and go to Dina's flat together. Dina hires Ishvar and Om for piecework, and agrees to let Maneck stay with her. Dina then reflects on her past and how she was brought to her current situation.

Sep 16, 2007
  • Japanda rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Dinah is trying to start and independent life. She will meet two tailors, and a college student all who will stay with her for a time. All 4 of these characters have sad and interesting pasts.


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Sep 16, 2007
  • Japanda rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Violence: there is a lot of cruelty.


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A Fine Balance
Mistry, Rohinton, 1952-
A Fine Balance

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