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The Resource A fine balance, by Rohinton Mistry

A fine balance, by Rohinton Mistry

Label
A fine balance
Title
A fine balance
Statement of responsibility
by Rohinton Mistry
Creator
Subject
Genre
Language
eng
Summary
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
Storyline
Tone
Character
Award
  • ALA Notable Book, 1997.
  • Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book, 1996.
  • Commonwealth Writers' Prize, Caribbean and Canada: Best Book, 1996.
  • Giller Prize, 1995.
  • Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction, 1996.
Review
  • Indian-born, now a Canadian resident, Mistry follows his first novel, Such a Long Journey (1991), with one quite similar. Middle-class Indian life in the 1970s is once again his playing field in a novel that, for all its length, does not sprawl. He introduces four people whose lives intersect: a middle-aged widow who operates a cottage industry; an uncle-and-nephew pair of tailors who both work for and rent rooms from her; and a college student, the son of one of her former friends. By focusing on the past and present lives of these four individuals, Mistry gives each one shape and dimension as a viable character and also utilizes their stories in a meaningful representation of the social and political travails and transfigurations that have been the hallmark of twentieth-century Indian life. Readers of serious fiction will be undaunted by this skillful novel's length. ((Reviewed March 15, 1996)) -- Brad Hooper
  • The setting of Mistry's quietly magnificent second novel (after the acclaimed Such a Long Journey) is 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, trade unionists and journalists. These events, along with the government's forced sterilization campaign, serve as backdrop for an intricate tale of four ordinary people struggling to survive. Naive college student Maneck Kohlah, whose parents' general store is failing, rents a room in the house of Dina Dalal, a 40-ish widowed seamstress. Dina acquires two additional boarders: hapless but enterprising itinerant tailor Ishvar Darji and his nephew Omprakash, whose father, a village untouchable, was murdered as punishment for crossing caste boundaries. With great empathy and wit, the Bombay-born, Toronto-based Mistry evokes the daily heroism of India's working poor, who must cope with corruption, social anarchy and bureaucratic absurdities. Though the sprawling, chatty narrative risks becoming as unwieldy as the lives it so vibrantly depicts, Mistry combines an openness to India's infinite sensory detail with a Dickensian rendering of the effects of poverty, caste, envy, superstition,corruption and bigotry. His vast, wonderfully precise canvas poses, but cannot answer, the riddle of how to transform a corrupt, ailing society into a healthy one. (Apr.)
  • 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. This unforgettable book from the author of Such a Long Journey (LJ 4/15/91) is highly recommended.-Janet Ingraham, Worthington P.L., Ohio
  • /* Starred Review */ From the Toronto-based Mistry (Such a Long Journey, 1991), a splendid tale of contemporary India that, in chronicling the sufferings of outcasts and innocents trying to survive in the "State of Internal Emergency" of the 1970s, grapples with the great question of how to live in the face of death and despair. Though Mistry is too fine a writer to indulge in polemics, this second novel is also a quietly passionate indictment of a corrupt and ineluctably cruel society. India under Indira Gandhi has become a country ruled by thugs who maim and kill for money and power. The four protagonists (all victims of the times) are: Dina, 40-ish, poor and widowed after only three years of marriage; Maneck, the son of an old school friend of Dina's; and two tailors, Ishvar and his nephew Om, members of the Untouchable caste. For a few months, this unlikely quartet share a tranquil happiness in a nameless city--a city of squalid streets teeming with beggars, where politicians, in the name of progress, abuse the poor and the powerless. Dina, whose dreams of attending college ended when her father died, is now trying to support herself with seamstress work; Maneck, a tenderhearted boy, has been sent to college because the family business is failing; and the two tailors find work with Dina. Though the four survive encounters with various thugs and are saved from disaster by a quirky character known as the Beggarmaster, the times are not propitious for happiness. On a visit back home, Om and Ishvar are forcibly sterilized; Maneck, devastated by the murder of an activist classmate, goes abroad. But Dina and the tailors, who have learned "to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair," keep going. A sweeping story, in a thoroughly Indian setting, that combines Dickens's vivid sympathy for the poor with Solzhenitsyn's controlled outrage, celebrating both the resilience of the human spirit and the searing heartbreak of failed dreams. (Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1996)
http://library.link/vocab/ext/novelist/bookUI
005230
Cataloging source
DLC
http://library.link/vocab/creatorDate
1952-
http://library.link/vocab/creatorName
Mistry, Rohinton
Dewey number
813/.54
Index
no index present
LC call number
PR9199.3.M494
LC item number
F56 1996
Literary form
fiction
http://library.link/vocab/resourcePreferred
True
Series statement
  • Oprah's book club
  • Oprah's book club
http://library.link/vocab/subjectName
  • Apartment houses
  • City and town life
  • India
Target audience
adult
Label
A fine balance, by Rohinton Mistry
Instantiates
Publication
Carrier category
volume
Carrier category code
  • nc
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier
Content category
text
Content type code
  • txt
Content type MARC source
rdacontent
Dimensions
25 cm.
Edition
First U.S. edition.
Extent
603 pages
Isbn
9780679446088
Isbn Type
(alk. paper)
Lccn
95049317
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia
Media type code
  • n
Note
Imprint varies.
System control number
  • 33819149
  • 221313
Label
A fine balance, by Rohinton Mistry
Publication
Carrier category
volume
Carrier category code
  • nc
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier
Content category
text
Content type code
  • txt
Content type MARC source
rdacontent
Dimensions
25 cm.
Edition
First U.S. edition.
Extent
603 pages
Isbn
9780679446088
Isbn Type
(alk. paper)
Lccn
95049317
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia
Media type code
  • n
Note
Imprint varies.
System control number
  • 33819149
  • 221313

Library Locations

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      37.377573 -76.770995
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