Shawn's Reviews > Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
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Jul 29, 12

Read from July 06 to 07, 2012

What disturbed Me most about this book is that it didn't disturb Me more. How is it that a book about the poorest, most exploited, ignored, trodden upon people didn't evoke more feeling or sustain more engagement? I spent the entire reading reminding myself that these were real people so that I would endeavor to feel something toward their story.

I'm not sure if it was the choice of writing style -- that of making the story "feel like a novel" -- that made this so easy to disengage from or not, but something didn't work. This should have been a powerful, heart wrenching, gut twisting story of subsistence, yet it felt almost breezy in its telling. I'm sorely disappointed because I was prepared to be moved. Boo is clearly a good writer, I just wish she had done more with the opportunity she had.

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Fazackerly Toast I am glad to see a dissenting voice among the sea of praise for this book. I also found it unengaging, in spite of the terrible moving plight of the people of Annawadi and I think the blame lies with Boo and the way she tells their story. I do not think she is a good writer. I think the little details that she puts in to try to make the characters feel real actually ring false because they don't seem to belong to that world. It almost feels like a First World mentality superimposed onto an alien environment. Anyway, something about it doesn't ring true and I found it a constant aggravation throughout the book.


Shawn I agree with you, and I share the frustration and aggravation you felt. You may have struck on a very valid point -- that of this book reflecting a "First World mentality". And, I completely agree with the criticism that the entire environment didn't ring true because of the way in which the story was told. How could that be with this subject matter? I did get the sense that Boo might not be a horrible writer, but I've not read anything else from her. One of the gentlemen in my book group said that he's read things by her and that she's really a much better investigative writer than this book suggested. I was hugely disappointed, though, because I felt she had this great opportunity to tell this amazing story and blew it. In so doing, I think she did these poor people a terrible disservice, because worse than not knowing about these atrocities is knowing and not caring. The way she presented this, I don't see how anyone could really "feel" strongly over this story.
I'm with you, too, about the praise being heaped on this book. Don't get it. At best, it's a 3-star effort, and that's partly because the content alone compells you to think it deserves at least that. If you know of, or find, another book that offers a more authentic look at life in Mumbai, I'd love to know what it is.


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