Rohinton Mistry is the author of three novels, all of which have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and a collection of short stories, Tales from Firozsha Baag.
His first novel, Such a Long Journey, won the Governor General's Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, and the SmithBooks/Books in Canada First Novel Award. It was made into an acclaimed feature film in 1998.
A Fine Balance was winner of the Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize, the Royal Society of Literature's Winifred Holtby Award, and Denmark's ALOA Prize. It was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and the Prix Femina. In 2002, A Fine Balance was selected for Oprah’s Book Club.
Family Matters won the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize for Fiction and the Canadian Authors Association Fiction Award. It was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.
Born in Bombay, Rohinton Mistry has lived in Canada since 1975. He was awarded the Trudeau Fellows Prize in 2004, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005. Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2009, he was a finalist for the 2011 Man Booker International Prize, and winner of the 2012 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. In translation, his work has been published in more than thirty languages.
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Description for Reading Group Guide:
The questions, discussion topics, and suggested reading list that follow are intended to enhance your group's experience of reading Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance. We hope they will provide many interesting angles from which to approach this sweeping and magnificent novel by one of the most powerful of contemporary writers.
Discussion question for Reading Group Guide:
1. Why has Mistry chosen not to name the Prime Minister or the City by the Sea, when they are easily recognizable? Does recognition of these elements make any difference in your attitude toward the story?
2. Is Nusswan presented entirely as a villain, or does he have redeeming features? What are his real feelings toward Dina?
3. How does Dina's position within her family reflect the position of women in her culture and social class? Is the status of Om's sisters the same as Dina's, or different? What sorts of comparisons can you make between the roles and functions of women in India (as represented in this novel) and in America?
4. Post-Independence India has seen much religious and ethnic violence: for instance, the mutual slaughter of Hindus and Muslims after Partition (1947), during which Ishvar and Narayan saved Ashraf and his family, and the hunting down and killing of Sikhs after the Prime Minister's murder, witnessed by Maneck. How does the behavior of the characters in the novel, ordinary Hindus, Parsis, and Muslims, contrast with the hatred that inspired these terrible acts? How much of this hatred seems to be fomented by political leaders? Dukhi observes bitterly "that at least his Muslim friend treated him better than his Hindu brothers" [p. 115]. What does this say about ethnic and religious loyalties, as opposed to personal ones?
5. After Rustom's death, Dina's primary goal is self-reliance. But as the novel progresses and she makes new friends, she begins to change her ideas. "We'll see how independent you are when the goondas come back and break your head open," Dina says to Maneck [p. 433]. Does she find in the end that real self-reliance is possible, or even desirable? Does she change her definition of self-reliance?
6. Most people seem indifferent or hostile to the Prime Minister and her “A masterpiece of illumination and grace. Like all great fiction, it transforms our understanding of life.”
–The Guardian (U.K.)
“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.”
–Globe and Mail
“Few have caught the real sorrow and inexplicable strength of India, the unaccountable crookedness and sweetness, as well as Mistry.”
“A towering masterpiece by a writer of genius.…”
–The Independent (U.K.)
“An astonishing novel…full of wisdom and laughter and the touches of the unexpectedly familiar through which literature illuminates life.”
–Wall Street Journal
“A work of stature…in scope, insight, and above all compassion for human beings.”
“Those who continue to harp on the inevitable decline of the novel ought to…consider Rohinton Mistry.”
–New York Times Book Review of Books
“The story unfolds with the grace and beauty of a butterfly’s wing…extraordinary.”
–The Times (U.K.)
“Mistry has demonstrated once again the enduring power of fiction to make sense of it all simply by telling a story…Read it.”
“Every word of it seems like a fleck of brilliant light on a dancing ocean.…A major achievement.”
–Scotland on Sunday
“A compelling book that manages the rare feat of being both entertaining and compassionate.”
“Compulsively readable; also funny, intensely moving and, like Bombay, pullulating with humanity.”
–The Independent (U.K.)
“Impossible to put down.”
–The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
From the Hardcover edition.