Recommended by Oprah’s Book Club in 2001, A Fine Balance has been a best-selling audiobook since its creation and its popular author, Rohinton Mistry has received a great deal of acclaim as a result.
This intense novel is set in 1970s India and tells the story of a young widow seamstress, Dina, who finally takes in a boarder after struggling to make rent payments and remain living as an independent woman. The boarder is Maneck, a college student and son of one of Dina’s more affluent childhood friends.
Later she takes on two more boarders, an uncle and nephew named Ishvar and Om who also work for her as tailors. The two tailors were born into the lowest caste, but were able to obtain training to be in the tailoring profession, raising them up significantly from where they began.
The backdrop for this book — India during "The Emergency" of 1975 to 1977 — is a chaotic and exceedingly dangerous place. During this time, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suspended the rule of law and civil liberties due to rising internal discontent. A forced sterilization program was implemented, slums were torn down, displacing thousands of families and numerous persons were arrested and tortured, seemingly without cause.
In the midst of this turmoil, Dina, Maneck, Ishvar and Om develop close but complex relationships as each struggles to survive. Parts of the audiobook are hopeful and uplifting, but beware: this is not a book for the faint of heart. The characters endure appalling injustices, and for some, every step forward is followed by three steps back. Several reader reviews describe the book as “depressing”, but even these readers consistently rate it at four stars (out of five) or above.
A Fine Balance is a riveting audiobook story that’s hard to forget; you’ll be so taken in by the characters' lives you won’t want to stop listening. And that’s a good thing: the audiobook runs 24 hours and 29 minutes.
Rohinton Mistry was born in India and resides in Canada. A best-selling author, he has often been compared to Charles Dickens.
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. Download and start listening now!