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A Fine Balance
Cover of A Fine Balance
A Fine Balance
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A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry's stunning internationally acclaimed bestseller, is set in mid-1970s India. It tells the story of four unlikely people whose lives come together during a time of...
A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry's stunning internationally acclaimed bestseller, is set in mid-1970s India. It tells the story of four unlikely people whose lives come together during a time of...
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  • A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry's stunning internationally acclaimed bestseller, is set in mid-1970s India. It tells the story of four unlikely people whose lives come together during a time of political turmoil soon after the government declares a "State of Internal Emergency." Through days of bleakness and hope, their circumstances – and their fates – become inextricably linked in ways no one could have foreseen. Mistry's prose is alive with enduring images and a cast of unforgettable characters. Written with compassion, humour, and insight, A Fine Balance is a vivid, richly textured, and powerful novel written by one of the most gifted writers of our time.
    From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpts-

  • Chapter One

    Dina's father had been a doctor, a GP with a modest practice who followed the Hippocratic oath somewhat more passionately than others of his profession. During the early years of Dr. Shroff's career, his devotion to his work was diagnosed, by peers, family members, and senior physicians, as typical of youthful zeal and vigour. "How refreshing, this enthusiasm of the young," they smiled, nodding sagely, confident that time would douse the fires of idealism with a healthy dose of cynicism and family responsibilities.

    But marriage, and the arrival of a son, followed eleven years later by a daughter, changed nothing for Dr. Shroff. Time only sharpened the imbalance between his fervour to ease suffering and his desire to earn a comfortable income.

    "How disappointing," said friends and relatives, shaking their heads. "Such high hopes we had for him. And he keeps slaving like a clerk, like a fanatic, refusing to enjoy life. Poor Mrs. Shroff. Never a vacation, never a party-no fun at all in her existence."

    At fifty-one, when Most GPS would have begun considering options like working half-time, hiring an inexpensive junior, or even selling the practice in favour of early retirement, Dr. Shroff had neither the bank balance nor the temperament to permit such indulgences. Instead, he volunteered to lead a campaign of medical graduates bound for districts in the interior. There, where typhoid and cholera, unchallenged by science or technology, were still reaping their routine harvest of villagers, Dr. Shroff would try to seize the deadly sickles or, at the very least, to blunt them.

    But Mrs. Shroff undertook a different sort of campaign: to dissuade her husband from going into what she felt were the jaws of certain death. She attempted to coach Dina with words to sway her father. After all, Dina, at twelve, was Daddy's darling. Mrs. Shroff knew that her son, Nusswan, could be of no help in this enterprise. Enlisting him would have ruined any chance of changing her husband's mind.

    The turning point in the father-and-son relationship had come seven years ago, on Nusswan's sixteenth birthday. Uncles and aunts had been invited to dinner, and someone said, "Well, Nusswan, you will soon be studying to become a doctor, just like your father."

    "I don't want to be a doctor," Nusswan answered. "I'll be going into business-import and export."

    Some of the uncles and aunts nodded approvingly. Others recoiled in mock horror, turning to Dr. Shroff. "Is this true? No father-son partnership?"

    "Of course it's true," he said. "My children are free to do whatever they please."

    But five-year-old Dina had seen the hurt on her father's face before he could hide it. She ran to him and clambered onto his lap. "Daddy, I want to be a doctor, just like you, when I grow up."

    Everyone laughed and applauded, and said, Smart little girl, knows how to get what she wants. Later, they whispered that the son was obviously not made of the same solid stuff as the father-no ambition, wouldn't amount to much.

    Dina had repeated her wish in the years to come, continuing to regard her father as some kind of god who gave people good health, who struggled against illness, and who, sometimes, succeeded in temporarily thwarting death. And Dr. Shroff was delighted with his bright child. On parents' night at the convent school, the principal and teachers always had the highest praise for her. She would succeed if she wanted to, Dr. Shroff knew it for certain.

    Mrs. Shroff also knew, for certain, that her daughter was the one to recruit in the campaign against Dr. Shroff's foolish philanthropic plan of working in remote, Godforsaken villages. But Dina...

About the Author-

  • Rohinton Mistry is the author of a collection of short stories, Tales from Firozsha Baag (1987), and three internationally acclaimed novels, Such a Long Journey (1991), A Fine Balance (1995), and Family Matters (2002). His fiction has won many prestigious international awards, including The Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, the Governor General's Award, the Canada-Australia Literary Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction, The Royal Society of Literature's Winifred Holtby Award, and the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize for Fiction. A Fine Balance was also an Oprah's Book Club® selection.

    Born in Bombay in 1952, Rohinton Mistry came to Canada in 1975.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 1, 1996
    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.

  • The Guardian (U.K.)

    "A masterpiece of illumination and grace. Like all great fiction, it transforms our understanding of life."

  • Globe and Mail "This novel has the courage to remember and to reaffirm who we are, one by one; it continues, in the tradition of the great novels, to celebrate the luminous and unquenchable human spirit."
  • Time "Few have caught the real sorrow and inexplicable strength of India, the unaccountable crookedness and sweetness, as well as Mistry."
  • The Independent (U.K.) "A towering masterpiece by a writer of genius...."
  • Wall Street Journal "An astonishing novel...full of wisdom and laughter and the touches of the unexpectedly familiar through which literature illuminates life."
  • Montreal Gazette "A work of stature...in scope, insight, and above all compassion for human beings."
  • New York Times Book Review of Books "Those who continue to harp on the inevitable decline of the novel ought to...consider Rohinton Mistry."
  • The Times (U.K.) "The story unfolds with the grace and beauty of a butterfly's wing...extraordinary."
  • Vancouver Sun "Mistry has demonstrated once again the enduring power of fiction to make sense of it all simply by telling a story...Read it."
  • Scotland on Sunday "Every word of it seems like a fleck of brilliant light on a dancing ocean....A major achievement."
  • India Today "A compelling book that manages the rare feat of being both entertaining and compassionate."
  • The Independent (U.K.) "Compulsively readable; also funny, intensely moving and, like Bombay, pullulating with humanity."
  • The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia "Impossible to put down."

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