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Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
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May 2018: Family Drama > [Listopia] Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo 2.5 stars

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message 1: by Charlotte (last edited May 10, 2018 07:42AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Charlotte | 1662 comments [Listopia]
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
2.5 stars

I work for an Indian company, so at least once a year I fly into Mumbai, get picked up by a driver and taken on the at least 3 hour journey to Pune. I've seen the slums that are described in the book, or ones like them, as the plane approaches and lands on the Mumbai runways. I'm driven by similar ones on the drive out of Mumbai. I've always wondered... so when I found this book, I was so intrigued to find out more of what life is like in these places so different from my own life and upbringing.

It is one thing to read about or see in movies, what life is like in India, but it is another thing to see it with your own eyes. This book gave insight and background to what daily life is like in India, for some of the poorest people in the world. It gave background to things I witnessed on each of my trips. I already had somewhat of an understanding of the caste system and the corruption but this book provided details and expanded upon that.

The book follows several different families that live in a Mumbai slum next to the airport. She describes what every day life is like. The struggle to find food and lack of clean water, the dangers, and the corruption. This book takes drama to an entirely new level. It is not only the drama within a family unit but between family units when the "houses" are so close together there is nothing separating them. The drama a teenage girl feels, wondering if she is going to be able to finish school or if her family is going to arrange her into a marriage where she has to give up everything.

I really, really wanted to like the writing. For part of the book I would wonder... this is a Pulitzer Prize winning author... why am I having such a hard time?!? This is a subject that interests me and I want to learn more, but why am I struggling to stay interested in it?!? I get that it is a brusk and in your face writing style to go with the harshness of the facts of the story. The writing style just wasn't for me. I want to give it more stars because it's something that I think everyone should read so have an understanding of what life is like for someone in drastically different shoes. Also, the details and the nuances of the writing style. But. Personal preference always influences the number of stars I give. If I can put it down, if it doesn't leave me wanting more, I have a hard time giving 3 or more stars. Even though I don't give it many stars, I do recommend it.


Anita Pomerantz | 6732 comments So interesting that you've been to India and have seen in person what the author depicts. I've read this book, and gave it a higher rating (though I also didn't find it perfect). It's actually even more interesting how you determine your stars . . .everyone seems to do this a little differently, and I think it is helpful to know what people base their ratings upon. It sounds like "engagement" is absolutely front and center for you in order for the book to get a high rating? Is that a fair assessment?


Charlotte | 1662 comments Anita wrote: "So interesting that you've been to India and have seen in person what the author depicts. I've read this book, and gave it a higher rating (though I also didn't find it perfect). It's actually even..."

Definitely a fair assessment... How much a book keeps my attention and keeps me from being able to put it down is the biggest factor for my rating, then the story/plot, then the writing. After becoming a member of this group and being more cognizant of how I analyze and score a book, I've found that I get a "feeling" of a star rating as I'm reading. I'm still working on my reviews, I've noticed that I usually have a lot more to say about the books lower on my scale than higher. Almost as if I'm trying to justify why I'm giving it a lower rating.

This book took me FOREVER to read, at times I thought I was never going to finish it, even though I thought the overall story was so interesting. Part of it may have been how she laid out the different intertwining stories. I found that I would really want to know what happened to Abdul next but she'd go off on some tangent about the voting system and I'd get bit bored and forget about my interest in Abdul. I had a really hard time getting invested in the characters.


Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 6381 comments Like Anita I also gave this a higher rating, but totally understand your reasoning for a 2-star rating. I also want to be engaged, and if I'm bored, no matter how interesting the basic story line, or how much I want to read about the subject, I just can't rate the book higher.


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