I rather haphazardly stumbled across Maximum City in an airport bookshop a couple months back and boy am I glad I did, because it perfectly hits one oI rather haphazardly stumbled across Maximum City in an airport bookshop a couple months back and boy am I glad I did, because it perfectly hits one of my literary sweet spots: a fascination with modern cities. It's a well-researched and very detailed look at Bombay (or, as many call it now, Mumbai) as it exists today in all its tremendous beauty and unparalleled horror. Suketu Mehta has a wonderful talent for downloading a tremendous amount of information while also writing utterly fascinating narratives about the various people and dynamics at work within the city. Along the way he relates the experience of returning to his home city after spending much of his childhood and young adulthood in America and Paris. It's a read that's really hard to put down.
I do wonder, however what other Bombay residents would think about this book, as it tends to focus on the darker forces at work within the city, such as the ethnic conflicts, ongoing gang wars, and the barely-kept-under-wraps illicit sex trade. All of this stuff is fascinating in much the same way as a horror film or roadside accident, but does it paint a "true" picture of the city? The answer is probably that no single book can capture the complete essence of any urban environment, but this one certainly fills in a lot of gaps that won't be covered in your usual travel guides....more