This was such a gripping account, I had to keep checking references to ensure that it was not fiction, or even based on a real story. The book is told in the third-person but such deep observations and presence that you even feel like you are right there, and the author must have been onsite more frequently than not, over the years. It was such a fascinating way of life to be told. Surprisingly, I did not have pity or disgust for the poverty and the way the families live in this common slum but, just the opposite. Most of the studied characters I could see rising upward, at least relatively speaking. They were enterprising, tireless, tried to pursue their education and advancement. It was really a fascinating study which made me wonder if this was really a necessary step in the evolution of developing countries and their people.
This book shared important information that I am not subjected to in my daily life. I am glad to have read this story, to learn of the conditions in the slums of Mumbai, to understand the corrupt justice process that occurs there. I had a huge knowledge gap and this filled it.
The author did a great job of helping the reader see how poor people can come to blame each other instead of those who oppress them (government or other people in charge). I could tell it was written by a journalist. Her account was extremely balanced, but at the same time, it lacked that emotional quality I was looking for. I found the matter of fact style a bit dry at times and confusing at other times. Without more of an emotional investment in the characters, it made it hard to keep in mind who was who, which made it difficult to follow the story.
Overall though, such an important read!
I started this book in hard copy, but when life kept getting in the way of my ability to find time to curl up with a good book, I turned to Audible to fill my commute hours with this masterpiece. (The narration was fantastic.) I actually started this book without knowing it is a work of nonfiction, and only realized it when I listened to the author's afterword. The most fantastic parts of this book, for me, are the respect the author shows for the characters and her restraint in how she describes the contrast of their lives from our lives and the lives of the people coming and going from the airport. She describes the lives and ambitions of each individual from a neutral place, without a hint of the patronization which could so easily and subconsciously pervade any depiction of lives in extreme poverty by one who is not. One of the most powerful moments in the book is when she takes a brief break from describing the tragedy that has turned two families against eachother to "listen in" on a Disney park executive's comments about how he just can't bring himself to visit a Universal theme park to check out the competition because he just can't stomach the idea of giving a penny to his competition. The author returns to the story of the families to describe how, despite the tragedy that has turned them into adversaries, they come together to help eachother fulfill a religious obligation. The contrast she creates with that brief snippet is so profound and moving, it haunted me for the rest of the book. Powerful read.
I've been listening to audio books for years and have been an audible subscriber for ? 10 years maybe? A long time anyway.
Less is more
Just too long
Certainly a wonderful narrator with accents
If you highlight any character, fleshing them out either not at all or a bit more would be better.
It just bogged down. I really wanted something good to happen, even in those terrible slums. Too sad to bare.
There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away Nor any Coursers like a Page Of prancing Poetry – Emily Dickinson
I have to admire the detailed research that went in to writing Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Katherine Boo shadowed so many people in the Annawadi slum of Mumbai for THREE YEARS. She does an amazing job of portraying their lives in all of their complexity. Her research didn’t end there, either. She evidently did much more intense document research as well. Her whole career has been spent examining disadvantaged communities in America and now India. She really opens up the eyes of the reader to what daily life is like and what the major issues are in Annawadi. Her website give a great overall look at how the book was written; I wish I had checked out the site before reading the book, actually. I think it deepened my appreciation for the task she undertook.
What I came away with is the sense that in the Annawadi slums, as in all or most of India it seems, corruption is practically bred into people’s lives. For the poorest people who live in these slums, a corrupt life is the only way most of them can eek out a means of survival. The majority of these people don’t even feel bothered by their own total lack of ethics and morals; they are too poor and too overwhelmed with trying to simply survive. The widespread corruption gives the people a sense that they have lost control over their lives. The ground is always shifting under them due to the forces of corruption everywhere.
The problem with the book for me is that it seems caught between two genres, creative non-fiction and the novel. I thought it would have been more interesting if Boo had just simply written a novel about the main characters in the book. Plenty of the factual info about their lives could have come across this way. As it was, the non-fiction tone and structure of the book got in the way of any enjoyment for me in the reading of it. It read like a catalogue of horrors and stories of corruption without enough glue to hold them together. Just when I finally learned the names of those that would become the main characters, the author would go off on a tangent to describe other characters and issues. The names became too many and after a while I didn’t really care. Luckily, the main characters finally came back into focus and the story carried on for a while, only to be derailed with more tangents which could illustrate more of the horrible issues going on in the Annawadi slums.
So, my review is based on my enjoyment of the book, which was almost non-existent at most points. If I were to rate it based on value and importance of the message, then I’d give it a top rating.
This story is real, or very close to real. Descriptions of the lives of people in Annawadi were written in great, believable detail. In one way, the story makes you acknowledge just how much you have and how fortunate you are. In another way, it makes you feel inferior, of the amount of awareness and perseverance that the people in Annawadi have despite corruption, greed, and the weight of the caste system. This is a must read.
While reading this book...and now that I'm finished, I can't get it out of my mind. The real life characters of the story have taken hold of me & I feel like I'll never be the same again. Simply the best audiobook I've bought to date.
I loved the story. At times I found it difficult to follow all of the different people and personalities within the story. I think that if the reader could have had more variations in his voice it would have improved the flow and the understanding of individuals in the book. Aside from that I found it to be moving. I am motivated to improve impoverished nation's because of my job, but this book made me wish that I could share those experiences that were the most demanding of their fortitude with them.
I had to read this book for an Anth class in college. At first I dreaded having to read yet another pretentious, overly scholarly book for school. My opinion quickly changed.
This book puts poverty into prospective for those of us that have never witnessed it first hand. I makes you appreciate what you have, no matter how much you have.