Shelley'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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May 08, 12

bookshelves: narrative-non-fiction, asia, audible
Read from April 17 to May 08, 2012

Given the compelling subject matter of Behind the Beautiful Forevers and the fact that I've always had a particular interest in learning more about India, I was ultimately very surprised by how dull I found this book. I'm sure that narrative non-fiction writers must always grapple with the question of how much of themselves to directly include as part of their narratives. Katherine Boo decided to leave herself out of hers completely (until the book's afterward - a part I did enjoy), a decision that made the book read like a novel, yet not a very good novel. There is very little character development and the details of the story didn't progress in a climactic and satisfying way. Authors like Jon Krakauer, Nathaniel Philbrick and Barbara Demick have led me to expect more from the genre of narrative non-fiction.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Amy (new) - rated it 1 star

Amy I am in the middle of this book and just saw your review now. I'm so relieved to see you have the same thoughts about the book that I do. I'm reading through it pretty darn slowly because I'm not inspired to pick it up! I expected more and it's falling a bit flat.


Shelley Yes, I felt like there was definitely something missing! And I went into it with very high expectations.


message 3: by Caroline (last edited Mar 15, 2014 03:23PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Caroline I have been reading the reviews and finding them very interesting. Some people I know have been utterly bowled over by this book, others, like yourself, have reservations. The book seems a real monument though, giving us insights into conditions that we normally don't have access to - or at least not here in the West. I suspect I might find it a tough read too. I really like the books I read to be well written (i.e., gripping).


Shelley Hello, Caroline! I'm still surprised by my lack of enthusiasm for this book; I don't really understand it. In the book I am reading now, The Locust Effect, I came across a quote from Boo that I really enjoyed, and I loved Behind the Beautiful Forevers's epilogue.

Either I read it at the wrong time, or my dislike had something to do with the book's pacing and lack of authorial voice. So many people whose tastes in books I respect appreciated this book. I didn't care for the way it was written, although it does have an important message.

I found it informative, and in that sense helpful, but I was never able to connect with it in a meaningful way, and I was relieved to move on to something else upon finishing it.


Caroline I can order this book very cheaply. I think perhaps it is too important not to at least try and give it a go....

I have no compunctions whatsoever about stopping reading anything I am finding hard going....so really I have nothing to lose.


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