Sunday, 2 December 2012

Behind The Beautiful Forevers, 2012, by Katherine Boo *****

I stumbled upon this novel for the first time on Biblioglobal, the title, the cover and the nationality India caught my eye. I glanced through it, and thought I would like to read it. Although, I don't know when, since I do not have the book. However, some days later, as usual,  I asked the high school librarian if there was any book of my interest available. Eagerly, he handed me "Behind The Beautiful Forevers" and said it was about India, that it arrived not long ago, and asked if I was interested. I looked at him and smiled.
This nonfiction novel (of which I was sceptical about) introduced me to  Katherine Boo. Who, I haven't heard about untill this time. She is actually an American journalist, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2000, she is popular for highlighting the existence of the impoverished citizens in her homeland. This is her first novel.

It was somewhat difficult for me to rate this book, because Katherine isn't a novelist but an acclaimed talented journalist, reporting actual fact in form of fiction. In my opinion, her narrative style (in this book) lacks the vibe of a nonfiction. Besides, It is not a page-turner.
Regardless of her journalistic experience evident in the novel, her writing style is high quality, zealous, rich in vocabulary, beautiful and creative in style. She is, indeed, a gifted writer.

In "Behind The Beautiful Forevers" Katherine, eruditely, expatiated on the hardship of the Anawadians. Indian citizens, slum-dwellers of the city of Mumbai. Rife with poverty and precariousness. In Annawadi, the blatant disregard and disrespect for people's lives is frightening. The poor oppress themselves, child labour is popularised. Infanticide, prostitution and murder are out of control. In fact, corruption is rampant. Most of the children in the filthy slum are bitten by rats and they therefore develop head boils and worms. Women forget how old their children are in the struggle of keeping them from starving. Jaundice and tuberculosis are common. Garbage sorting is the most dignified means of survival and sewage lake is water source. Sadly, self-immolation and drinking rat poison their way to end it all. Citizens considered to belong to the "low caste" are doomed, ostracised and discriminated. Their death "a nuisance case to dispense with". Unfortunately, the Annawadians lived in squalor adjacent to the city International Airport and luxurious hotels, where the affluent Indians and foreigners comfortably lavish their money. Entertaining themselves with excess of food, drinks, music and so on and so forth.

Do I recommend this book? Of course yes. Even so, keep in mind that it could be difficult and distressing. In any case, Katherine was accounting on the ruthlessness that exists in the slums of India.
I rated this book five stars because of  its finesse, even though I am not used to the journalistic form of writing. I am not surprised that "Behind The Beautiful Forevers" was shortlisted for The Samuel Johnson Prize and just recently it won the National Book Award, it worth it. Kudos to Katherine Boo.


9 comments:

  1. I'm glad you were able to read it! What a nice coincidence that the librarian handed it to you.

    The novelized non-fiction certainly takes a bit a bit of getting used to. But I think it works well to connect the reader to people living in Annawadi as individuals.

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    1. Biblioglobal thanks for stopping by. It was difficult to get used to the novelised nonfiction probably because Katherine kept herself away from the story, and she seems to know what the characters were thinking about all the time. (that normally do not happen in non-fiction). You know the voice of the first person singular was absent. However, after reading some of her interviews, I realised why she did that, she said she wanted the attention to be drawn on exclusively the people of Anawadi, readers might be distracted with her presence in their midst. She made a point.

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    2. Maybe it would have been better if she had put her explanation of her methods at the beginning of the book. I remember being a bit skeptical at first about her voicing of other people's thoughts. But my boyfriend had already read the book and pointed me to the final chapter which explained her methods.

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  2. The book sounds like the story of humanity and reconfirms the fact that the story of the poor and the rich is just about the same regardless of what part of the world one resides. Another good review Mary. Thanks for your posts.

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    1. Kboy, thanks for stopping by. You just said it all. However the story in this book is so unfortunate.

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  3. A wonderful review; very indepth. Certainly looks like a distressign novel, but I agree with you that the background is distressing.

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    1. Celestine, it is distressing and disturbing at the same time.. too much poverty, squalor... so unfortunate. Upon all that, it is a non-fiction. Sad.. Sad.. Sad..

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  4. It's a hard book to read, but I highly recommend it. It's riveting and real and important. In many ways it reminded me of Rhinton Mistery's excellent novel, "A Fine Balance", which I also highly recommend.

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    1. It worth the read. That is the reality, sadly.

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