A Fine Balance

  • by Rohinton Mistry
  • Narrated by John Lee
  • 24 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In the India of the mid-1970s, Indira Gandhi's government has just come to power. It institutionalizes corruption and arbitrary force, most oppressive to the poorest and weakest people under its sway. Against this backdrop, in an unnamed city by the sea, four people struggle to survive. Dina, Maneck, and two tailors, the Untouchables Om and Ishvar, who are sewing in Dina's service, undergo a series of reversals, punctuated only by small mocking advances, that start them on a trajectory towards unhappiness and despair. Yet, in choosing what they will do, they exhibit a basic dignity and humanity that belies their mistreatment as part of the underclass. By merely surviving until their load becomes unbearable, and then living on past that point, they have accomplished something.

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What the Critics Say

"Mistry...needs no infusion of magic realism to vivify the real. The real world, through his eyes, is magical." (The New York Times)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Praise for the Narrator as much as the Writer

So many reviewers have said that the book is slow to grab the listener's ear, and I agree, as far as content is concerned. But, John Lee's rendering of the voices and the narrative is superb, and that kept me going. Also, I was extremely drawn to the subject of caste and class in 20th Century India, so I stuck it out through the first third of the book.
Indeed, the stories are extremely saddening (and sometimes quite revolting, so beware if your stomach is as sensitive as mine), which makes the book difficult to digest a lot of the time. Yet, I never had the sense that anything in it was less than believable.
Poverty is often inconceivably harsh, which is why a book like this is so important for readers born and reared in the USA to read/hear. One thing I found myself doing throughout my "listen" was reminding myself of what life was like here, in the same time periods that Mistry's characters were living through, which added to the experience for me.
I can't say I "enjoyed" the book, but I have to say I could NOT stop listening until I got to the end--even though I literally cried for the last 3 hours of it. That is how compelling the writing and the reader of this book were.
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- Karen P. Smith

Great reader makes a good book better on Audible

John Lee's reading of this novel is magnificent! The book is heavy in dialogue and he gives a unique voice to each speaker. There is a musical lilt to the English spoken by the characters and Mr. Lee seems to be spot on with his reading.

The novel itself is a Dickensian struggle against societal injustice. Along the way one learns much aboutIndia in the second half of the 20th Century. The caste system, religious conflict and the tyrannical regime of Indira Gandhi are just some of the subjects woven into the story. One word of warning--don't expect a warm fuzzy ending. Mr Mistry is relentlessly realistic.
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- William R. Creech

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-05-2004
  • Publisher: Books on Tape