Book Review: Behind the Beautiful Forevers

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“As every slumdweller knew, there were three main ways out of poverty: finding an entrepreneurial niche, as the Husains had found in garbage; politics and corruption, in which Asha placed her hopes; and education. Several dozen parents in the slum were getting by on roti and salt in order to pay private school tuition.” Excerpt from Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Pulitzer Prize winning author Katherine Boo

Stunned. If I have to put it in one word, that would be my reaction to this book. Stunned by the devastatingly visceral narrative, stunned by the ruthless frankness in which the characters are portrayed, but above all, stunned to know that the book is not a work of fiction, but a true story. It is hard to believe that this is a true account of what Katherine saw while interacting with the inhabitants of Annawadi, a slum near the international airport in Mumbai.

Annawadi Slums in Mumbai

Annawadi Slums in Mumbai

Behind Beautiful Forevers is a very well written book which focuses on the lives of three families living in abject poverty in one of Mumbai’s many slums.  Katherine has come up with a very vivid portrayal of life in the slums, the hopes and dreams of the characters, the challenges faced by them and the interactions they have among themselves and with the world outside the slum. The characters of Abdul – the enterprising rag picker and Asha – aspiring to be the most powerful person in the slums, are particularly hard-hitting.

This is an exceptionally well written book. The fact that Katherine is not from India and does not understand the language spoken by the slum dwellers (she had to reply on translators), and yet she has written such a remarkable book based on their lives, is an ode to her journalistic and literary abilities.

This is one of the two outstanding non-fiction books I have read in the last couple of months, the other one being Salman Rushdie’s Joseph Anton

And yes, it would be a good idea to read the Author’s note at the end before starting the book.

PS: I received a complimentary copy of this book, in order to review it, from MySmartPrice Books. Know more about them here

Related Posts:Mumbai in Ink: Five Amazing Novels About Mumbai

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