Five words from the blurb: slum, Mumbai, family, connections, shocking
My favourite book is A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry so I am drawn towards other books that are set in Indian slums. Behind the Beautiful Forevers was written by the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Katherine Boo, after she spent four years living with the residents of Annawadi, a slum near Mumbai’s international airport. The book is a non-fiction account of their lives, highlighting the terrible situations that they have to endure and the corruption that is a part of their every day life.
The book reminded me of Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick. The journalistic writing style was engaging and all the facts were given in a clear and precise way. The most interesting aspect of the book was learning that corruption was actually useful for some of those living in the slums – being able to manipulate officials was one of the only ways that slum residents were able to improve their lives.
The main focus of the book was the legal trial of one family falsely accused of murdering another slum resident. I liked the fact that the book didn’t simply concentrate of their basic survival and introduced the Indian justice system to the reader. The journalistic style of writing enabled the facts to be given without prejudice, giving the reader an insight into the way slum residents are treated by authorities.
My main problem with the book was that I was familiar with the plight of those living in Indian slums already.
Tragically the story of these people isn’t new and I’d read about similar events many times before.
I also thought that too many people were introduced. The writing was clear enough for me to be able to place them all and understand their part in events, but I failed to form an emotional connection to them. Several people died during the course of the book, but I’m afraid that I didn’t care enough to get the tissues out. Perhaps this was intentional:
I wish that the book had concentrated on Abdul. As a teenager his perspective on life was the most interesting to me and I think that having one central focus would have given the book a greater depth of emotion.
If you have no idea what life in the slums is like then I suspect this book will shock you. I can see why many people are naming it as their book of the year, but without that emotional connection to the characters I was unable to fall in love with it.
The thoughts of other bloggers:
Touching, informative, observant, and irresistably readable, I cannot recommend this fine book enough. BookeyWookey
…an eye-opening read that introduced us to the extremes of a rapidly prospering city. Take Me Away
Behind the Beautiful Forevers is beautifully written, informative, and an important piece of investigative journalism. Between the Covers