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Extended Audio Sample A Fine Balance Audiobook, by Rohinton Mistry Click for printable size audiobook cover
4.43 out of 54.43 out of 54.43 out of 54.43 out of 54.43 out of 5 4.43 (35 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Rohinton Mistry Narrator: John Lee Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: December 2001 ISBN: 9780736698917
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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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Astonishing…A rich and varied spectacle, full of wisdom and laughter and the touches of the unexpectedly familiar through which literature illuminates life.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “A serious and important work…The product of high intelligence and passionate conviction.”

    New York Review of Books

  • “Monumental…Few have caught the real sorrow and inexplicable strength of India, the unaccountable crookedness and sweetness, as well as Mistry.”

    Time

  • “Those who continue to harp on the decline of the novel…ought to consider Rohinton Mistry. He needs no infusion of magic realism to vivify the real. The real world, through his eyes, is magical.”

    New York Times

  • An Oprah’s Book Club Selection in 2001
  • Winner of the 1996 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction
  • A USA Today Bestseller
  • Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award
  • An ALA Notable Book Finalist for Fiction
  • A 1997 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Finalist
  • Winner of the 1995 Scotiabank Giller Prize
  • Winner of the 1996 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book
  • A 1996 Man Booker Prize Finalist

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 KDJ | 2/19/2014

    " Amazing book, funny in many many places but so tragic and unbelievable what happened in their lives and the lives of so many. Beautiful writing, intelligent and heart-rendering. I will not forget this book and the lives of the main characters interwoven through the difficult years they try to survive and I was hoping for a wonderful end but true to the whole book that would have been to simplistic. I was not so prepared for the ending though and that is the style of the writer. I am looking for this book on audio and would love to listen to the whole again. Such insight into the goings on in one country, and the class system that bought so much hatred and senseless killings. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathleen Burden | 2/12/2014

    " Such a bleak book, but so compelling. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Shelu | 2/5/2014

    " depressing and devastating. it's worth reading and gripping and all that, but it made me feel very sad and grimy. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michal Leon | 2/2/2014

    " Brilliant at every level. Deeply political, but also so very human, with life in full force bursting at every turn despite incredible hard blows and against every possible (and many impossible) odd. Disturbing, sad and not for the faint hearted. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Alex | 1/21/2014

    " An excellent book, by one of my favorite authors. Not for the feint of heart. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Andrea | 1/20/2014

    " One of my favorite contemporary novels, in the epic social realism vein of Balzac or Zola. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sofie | 1/20/2014

    " I was totally mesmerised by this book... One of the best books I've read so far. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Frenchy Faith | 1/18/2014

    " This book is heart-breaking. I loved it so much and grew so attached the the characters. It made me laugh, rage and cry, and touched me deeply. It's a disturbing reminder that you should enjoy the good moments you are presented with, for you can never know what life has in store for you. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lindsalba | 1/16/2014

    " Wonderful novel about India around the time of Indira Ghandi, very upsetting in parts, nearly put me off going to India, but glad it didn't ! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jay Scully | 1/11/2014

    " to the deep realms of the caste system; the degradations, the suffering, the courage ... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Neetu | 12/8/2013

    " Heart-wrenching story of four characters whom I got to know so deeply... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ruth | 6/12/2013

    " I read this ages ago and loved it. it was amazing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joy Metalios | 3/13/2013

    " loved it....until the ending....tough to end a good book like this "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Maria | 2/5/2013

    " One of the best books I have read in a very long time. The characters were so real and full of life, I loved this book so much that towards the end I started to read it really slowly because I wanted the experience of reading it to last as long as possible, I have not done this since I was a child. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marilynn | 11/5/2012

    " I gave it an 8 at Book Club, but I was the only one who really liked it. Very complicated story and pretty darn depressing; but rang true for my ears. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michele | 10/10/2012

    " The most depressing read ever. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Hugh Kennedy | 7/29/2012

    " What a wonderful descriptive writer. Captured me immediately in this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Silja Sakrisvold Borse | 7/29/2012

    " One of the best books I have ever read! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kevin | 5/18/2012

    " If you are feeling low then this is not a book to curl up with. It is beautifully written, the prose is a very high standard like all Mistrys novels and is recommended reading but my God it is bleak. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amelia | 10/13/2011

    " I still think about this book ten years later. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Brian Kennedy | 6/26/2011

    " Made it thru a 150 or so pages. Really surprised this got the reviews it did. The writing style was just very bland. I couldn't connect with the story or characters. There's just too much out there to waste any more time on something I was just flat out not enjoying. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sunaina | 6/13/2011

    " One of the most powerful books I've read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chris | 5/23/2011

    " An engaging but depressing look at recent Indian society. I've been in the third world in a number of different countries and for all the fascination with the different-ness of it I'm ultimately grateful
    to live in the USA. Despite all our own problems. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kushal | 5/23/2011

    " This is the most depressing book I have ever read in my life. It's 2 AM here and I don't think I am going to get sound sleep for many coming days. Fuck, I don't even want to talk about this. Later... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Allison | 5/14/2011

    " This book is well written and engrossing but also relentlessly depressing. Life in India is really awful for poor people and they never, ever catch a break. That pretty much sums up this book up. Things are bad and they just get worse and I guess I just don't want to read about it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kate | 5/14/2011

    " I loved this book, very well written and drew me in completely. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jennifer | 5/12/2011

    " This was such a good book. Very hard to read some of the depressing circumstances but I couldn't put it down. Extreme poverty in India. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Beth | 5/10/2011

    " One of my top 10 all time favorites. An amazing tale of the resilience of the human spirit. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carol | 5/10/2011

    " One of my very favorite books. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Heather | 5/9/2011

    " In a minority of people who didn't like this. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Marty | 5/7/2011

    " This is a well-told story about various people in India from different castes who help each other. The characters are described so well that the reader feels she knows them. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Judith | 5/6/2011

    " I love historical fiction. This book gives a terrifying look into India and what people must do to survive. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rene | 5/6/2011

    " what a devastaiting story!... I have never cried so much after reading a book. beautifuly constructed background and characters. magnificent epic book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jane | 5/3/2011

    " Beautifully descriptive images of modern India, with touching characterizations. An amazing story. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Shannon | 5/3/2011

    " Third on my list of books that take place in India or are about India, and I'm just devouring them. This book is incredible. Mistry makes you fall in love with the characters! "

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About the Author
Author Rohinton MistryRohinton Mistry was born in Bombay and now lives near Toronto. His first novel, Such a Long Journey, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and received, among other awards, the Governor General's Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book of the Year. A Fine Balance is his second novel, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Fiction, the Giller Prize, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize as well as a Booker Prize finalist. Mistry is also the author of Swimming Lessons, a collection of short stories.
About the Narrator

John Lee, a stage actor and writer and a coproducer of feature films, has narrated more than one hundred audiobooks of every conceivable genre, earning some three dozen Earphones Awards and the prestigious Audie Award.