Siobhan'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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Feb 15, 2013

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I love Indian fiction and try to read as much non fiction about India as I can, so was looking forward to this much acclaimed book. It is indeed very well written and both fascinating and totally engaging. However, I really wish that Ms Boo had spent a little more time editing down her subjects, or perhaps chosen to focus on only a few of the families in the Mumbai slum she writes about here, because the book is so incredibly inundated with names and families it becomes impossible to keep track of the people she is following. Unfortunately it has the double effect of lessening the potency of the tragedy she is trying to convey, simply because we lose the sense of who these people are as individuals which I know was what she was aiming for, and secondly the reader just simply gets LOST in the narrative, it is literally not possible to remember what happened to whom and why and when. Its really too bad because it should have been a much better and more effective book than it was, and really all I was left remembering from it was how confused I was by the miasma of names and faces and families she tried to cram in there. Also, I was really struck by how little new information she presented to me. Granted I have read possibly more than her average reader but I was disappointed that I didn't experience Mumbai from a new perspective for all her exhaustive research and documentation.
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Barb If Ms. Boo can dedicate 4 years of her life to the kind of exhaustive research she conducted, I believe we in turn can keep paper & pencil handy to sketch out a map of the characters involved. No one in Annawadi is asking for charity in this book, but they deserve the dignity afforded them by simply paying attention to the text.


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