This book did not hold my interest. The poverty and loss of life was horrifying but there was no character development .
The narrator transports you and really brings the story to life. It cannot always rescue the story that feels sometimes fragmented and herky-jerky, although at bottom it is a tragic reflection of reality.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
The seamy side of disproportionate wealth frequently appears in books. Some are classics of fiction like “The Grapes of Wrath”; others are modern fictions, apocryphal, and less renowned, like Aravind Adiga’s “White Tiger”. “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” shows the ugly truth of a poorly regulated capitalist economy. “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” is a true story of modern India that exposes the seams of an economic system that widens and perpetuates a gap between haves and have-nots. India’s current economic system guarantees a permanent underclass, characterized by poverty, malnutrition, and disease. “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” is about Mumbai’s poor; written by a seasoned reporter, Katherine Boo.
There is “No Exit” for the poverty-stricken Mumbai underclass. Future generations of the poor are guaranteed nothing but life, with little education and dwindling economic opportunity. The value of corruption is reinforced. The inner compass of human morality spins as schemes to defraud and grinding poverty guarantee an underclass existence in perpetual slums.
Mumbai is a daunting example of how disproportionate wealth corrupts morality, undermines democracy, and smears the reputation of capitalist economies.
Reports on a world few would want to experience yet is gripping and fascinating in its investigation. This is as much a mapping of human nature as a summary of a modern city. Will lend a cogent understanding to the machinations of Indian poverty and city life. Do not miss author's explanation.
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.
I'm a country potter, gardener, flute player and tin tinker living with my husband, an electrical engineer & cabinet maker.
I've spent some time in India, China, Peru, Cambodia where pockets of poverty are more than a few blocks long. Poor areas are as different from one another as wealthy areas might be but they all have roots of corruption that intertwine and feed the systems, perpetuating the problems and delaying the solutions. This book is difficult to listen to when one engages the mind in a what if this was me situation.
It is well written and well performed. The situations are ones we should all be aware of.
Well written with convincing characterization of people and place.
My complaint is that the constant emphasis is on the horrors of life for these people.
The unjustness is noted in seemingly ever aspect of life.
Yes we who live in so much better conditions need to know but there is too much of
the "Behind" and not enough of the "Beautiful Forevers".
More subtlety or write a sociological essay.