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Extended Audio Sample A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (51,299 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:
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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.”


  • “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 by 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 by 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 by 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 by 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. "

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