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The City of Joy

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  6,227 ratings  ·  524 reviews
Made into a movie starring Patrick Swayze, this is the inspiring story of an American doctor who experienced a spiritual rebirth in an impoverished section of Calcutta.
Paperback, 552 pages
Published July 15th 1988 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 1985)
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 ·  6,227 ratings  ·  524 reviews

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Kirtida Gautam
Dec 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
One of the most significant spiritual experience of my life has happened around this book. I had moved to Mumbai. Loneliness and depression were my accompanying emotions- 24*7. During those days, I didn't use to have money and I used to travel by buses. I was reading this book on the bus. The conductor gave me the ticket. He asked me how did I find the book? Now, this is not a title you expect to be read by the bus conductor. But he told me he has read the book. He started talking with me about ...more
Jul 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This book inspired by true story. To write this book, Dominique Lappier had to live in slum area in Calcutta, India for about two years. So that this slum area became the setting of the book.

The book told about the story of epic in a place called Anand Nagar or City of Joy. For Brother Stephan - a priest from Poland - came to this place made him to a suprise. He had to live in such filtry condition: a few water to share, bad sanition, etc. But, here, Stephan found the light of God that he seeked
Feb 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the most amazing books I read; it changed my life! What sticks out in my mind to this day was reading about the poor giving the very last of their food to another who was even more poor and had less.

I finished this book in the Denver International airport between flights and cried my eyes out! Such a beautiful book, I recomend everyone to read it!
Chiro Pipashito T H
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book on a Calcutta ( Kolkata) slum named Ananda Nagar. Many people believe The City of Joy refers to Kolkata but in this book , The City of Joy is just an Enligh transliteration of the slum Ananda Nagar.
Ramón S.
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-best
A very moving book. One thinks about his relationship with the poor and what God is doing in their lives. The main character: a priest is very well described and you can understand his struggles and his faith.
One of my favorites
Anil Swarup
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It is one of the most amazing books one has ever come across. The pathos of chaos couldn't have been better described. The book does not celebrate poverty but the author paints an incredible picture of the denizens of this city of Joy : "The poorer they were, the more eager they were to give ". He goes to describe "the miracle of these concentration camps" where "the accumulation of disastrous elements were counter balanced by other factors that allowed their inhabitants not merely to remain ful ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
The person who lent me this book was not someone I consider a close friend. When I gave it back to her she asked me if I "enjoyed" it. Without thinking, I responded, "It's not the kind of book you "enjoy", it's the kind of book that changes your life." She didn't get it.

It certainly changed my perspective on a lot of things. Yes, it is a novel, but it's based on the author's experiences with Calcutta's poorest. For some odd reason, it made me very aware of just how dependent we are in the West o
Nov 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read such a beautiful book in recent times. Not that the writing is all that good, but the content and the real stories of struggle,pain and the spirit to life that strives even in the worst of conditions makes you wonder about the sheer mental strength it takes to be one among the original "City of Joy".

Though the setting is quite similar to largely explored themes in Indian movies and books by now, the sheer intensity of involvement of the main characters with the many heroes of the
Abi barlow
Mar 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
probably my favorite book ever. I read it in 1999 whilst i was in India, and perhaps the fact that i was there made the scenes more vivid and real for me. Its an amazing depiction of how joy love and kindness can exist in povery, squalor and hardship.
May Sun Aung
When I read this book about 5 years ago, I couldn't finish it because of all those tragic events.

Even now, I'm still shocked reading this. The thing that terrified me most was the company buying and selling human bones.
And the cyclone that happened in this book reminds me so much of Nagis Cyclone that happened in my country, Myanmar in 2008.
Feb 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am not sure how to start in my review for this book. As a read it was written in a style that keeps you engaged. Alternating most chapters back and forth between two story lines allows you to become involved with the current and still be expectant about the coming chapter. Eventually both of these stories weave into one. Having just recently been to India I found the details to be accurate and he paints a viable image so you can see the story as you read it.

From a social standpoint, I was rep
Dec 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, so I know they made some movie based on this book with Patrick Swayze, but that is irrelevant. This book tells the story of life in India and the struggles of a family forced to leave their country home and migrate to the crowded city of Calcutta if I remember correctly. I'm pretty sure that it is not a true story, but based on real events-maybe it's historical fiction. Anyway, I thought it was great. ...more
Kylie Abecca
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
To be honest I didn’t think much of this book as I was reading it, but since finishing it I can’t stop thinking about it. Definitely a story that will stay with me for many years to come.
Susanna Meynle
Kolkata is the one place in India that I travel to often. One of the places I actually want to go to college to.

To say this book changed my life is too much of an understatement. This book warms my heart as much as it breaks my heart.

My dad is Indian but he's not from mainland India, so he belongs to 'Tribal India'. We stay in a small city which was popularly known in the old days (and until now) as "Scotland of the East" due to the fact that the weather is pretty pleasant here as compared to
Nandita Goswami
Aug 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I've read so far. Brings the reader face to face with the the people who lived in the Calcutta slums - their struggles , their pain , their joy and their magic. Dominique Lapierre writes a total unbiased account of the the people living in the new born independent India. His narrative transports you to the city of joy where people are the happiest ,despite living in the worst possible conditions. A learning lesson , indeed. ...more
Jan 19, 2013 rated it liked it
This book deserves the kudos which it has always received. What a heartbreaking, interesting story, based upon true lives of Calcutta's poorest-of-the-poor.

Sad story, very hard to read about the plight of these people. An interesting fact: Dominique LaPierre's wife is also named Domimique!
Jun 24, 2015 added it
3 reasons why you MUST read this book .

1. It will inspire you to be extremely hopeful of life.

2. It will make you so much more humble and grounded.

3. The book has instances that will make you shiver and yet provide invaluable lessons of life.

Dec 20, 2013 rated it did not like it
Poverty-and-disease porn. Horrible horrible white-supremacist book.
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing, inspiring and perspective changing book !!
Akul Baiju
Feb 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 3.85/5

This book turned out to be much much better than what I had expected. Recommended by my parents, City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre is the story about Anand Nagar, Calcutta, a slum full of the worst degradations that exist and home of some of the best people in the country. Lapierre spent 3 years researching for this book and it shows. He has captured the nuances of the Indian slum perfectly and managed to gauge India's myriad problems and solutions while employing the utmost object
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The City of Joy is a book that takes you through a roller coaster of emotions. Lapierre’s descriptive writing shows you the horror and hopelessness of living in the slums of Calcutta, while also showing how the people overcome that hopelessness through the festivals of their gods, celebrations, and willingness to serve and help their fellow man. As I was reading, I wanted to feel bitter and hardened over all of the adversity the people of the city face, but Lapierre always brings it back to the ...more
Jan 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Definitely 5 stars. Probably the best book I've read about India so far (Shantaram comes second). I deliberately read it slowly and thoroughly, because I loved it so much. Very moving and eye-opening. ...more
Kanchan Mandanekar
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An un-put-down-able book. Did not know how good this book was till I picked it up. Had I known it, this would have been a part of my bucket list of 'to read' books. ...more
Ivdad Ahmed Khan
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An extraordinary book. Marvelous. Beautiful. Oh, how I have missed out on this jewel of a book earlier - I don't know! This makes you wonder how precious and endowed your life is, how seemingly apparent difficulties in our regular lives pale in comparison to that of many others who aren't so endowed. The narrative was so fluid that I wish at times the book never had to come to an end. But, oh well. Clearly one of my best reads in 2019! ...more
May 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read books to live those lives that you could never have.

The City of Joy is a book that would plunge you into a vortex of bare reality filled with misery, abjection, hope and love. Finally, when you emerge from this whirlwind of experiences, your view on life would never be the same.

When I picked up this book to get a relief from the bunch of overwhelmingly high soaring books which I had been reading recently, little did I know that it was a cornucopia of humanity which would leave an everlastin

An exposé of poverty in wretched detail. People die slowly from backbreaking work or from hunger, or their limbs melt from leprosy long after their families have banished them because of the disease, or they fall into festering sewers and drown unnoticed. The slums of Calcutta arose due to an influx of people who exchanged the deprivation of the rural life for urban poverty, which was just another kind of precarious existence: "The earthquake that shook Bihar on January 15, 1937, caused hundreds ...more
Jessica Culhane
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read The City of Joy almost twenty years ago, in middle school. It had a profound effect on me, so when I saw a copy of it a few months ago in a book store, I bought it immediately. The second reading did not disappoint.

Much of the scenery of 1960s Calcutta was familiar to me as a tourist earlier this year to an entirely different part of India: the religious cacophony, the slum labor, the baksheesh, the festivals, the filth. Wild traffic, marigolds, eunuchs, kurtas and saris. Truly Kafkaesque
Khoo Zi
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Dominique LaPierre’s City of Joy celebrates the resilience and courage of the slum dwellers as they struggle against the dire and inhumane conditions in the city of Calcutta. LaPierre shares a story of hope, humanism and joy in the marginalized community that is often shunned and despised by the upper tiers of society. This provides us a fresh perspective to the common misrepresentation of the poor as despondent and miserable individuals, but instead are admired for their strength and will power ...more
Darius Moh
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
When I first laid hands on this book, I had high expectations of it, having heard of it from my associates before. The read throughout had been an enjoyable one from start to finish, with its hauntingly beautiful descriptions and vivid narratives, allowing me to immerse myself fully into the story. There were three main narratives in the book each following the lives of three different people. Hasari Pan, a poor peasant from the countryside of Bengal driven to Calcutta due to an unforgiving drou ...more
Lim Ying
Nov 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Dominique Lapierre vividly portrays the poverty, suffering, and destitution that is rife in the city. Yet in the midst of the sufferings, he celebrates the strength and unity of humanity.

Lapierre also shed light on the concept of community leadership as he wrote about Stephan Kovalski, a priest with the heart to serve the cause of the poor. Kolvaski managed to lead the poor because he gain their trust and respect with his sincerity to experience what the poor are experiencing, and to live with t
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Dominique Lapierre was born in Châtelaillon-Plage, Charente-Maritime, France. At the age of thirteen, he travelled to America with his father who was a diplomat (Consul General of France). He attended the Jesuit school in New Orleans and became a paper boy for the "New Orleans Item". He developed interests in travelling, writing and cars and later traveled across the United States as a young man.


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