Behind the Beautiful Forevers [NF]

Katherine Boo

  17 Reviews

From its intriguing title to the vivid individuals who inhabit its pages, this is a book you will never forget. It tells the story of the people who live in Annawadi slum bordering the luxury hotels of Mumbai International Airport. The self-immolation of one of the women (Fatima), sets in play a series of catastrophic events involving her neighbours, highlighting the huge challenges the very poor must negotiate to survive and if at all possible, prosper.

This fast-paced story of contemporary India reads like a novel but reflects meticulous research and journalistic dedication. Winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction 2012.

Comments from Groups

Most read the book - some found it quite depressing but all found it to be enlightening. Opened our eyes to slum living and true poverty. Would like to know what happenes to all the people in the years to come. Christchurch 088

Emotionally challenging! Auckland 055

Everyone felt it was an unforgettable book, but very unsettling, bringing home the completely different world it portrayed...a must read once started but not easy re content. Auckland 027

It was colourful and descriptive writing, however, the group didn't warm to the characters and unlike the author didin't feel a lot of hope for Annawadi's people. Christchurch 196

The group was amazed that a book which appeared to be fiction was all true. A very sobering story which left us all counting our blessings. Auckland 210

Those who read it were glad to have done so and appreciated that a writer had chosen to deal with such a subject. Katikati 001

A very interesting book. The author's view of life in a shantytown, Annawadi, is moving and oddly optimistic. Hamilton 029



AUCK 188
Not all of us read this book. Some loved it, while some found it a bit confrontational. Led to interesting discussion.
Mixed reactions to this from "poverty porn" to agreeing that it could be called "narrative non-fiction". Only a few finished the book, but those that did enjoyed it. Mixed at best.
CHCH 299
Well-written, well-researched book but the depictions of the hopelessness of the people living in the slums of Mumbai and the extent of the corruption made it a hard book to read.
CHCH 318
The enjoyment of this book varied. Three readers couldn't finish it but two enjoyed it and found the living conditions, although appalling by our standards, made a living for the people who lived there. Despite corruption, a community operated with basic needs being met. It was difficult to keep track of the characters and situations but was very descriptive, in many ways positive, and beautifully written.
Emotionally hard to read but worthwhile.
Mixed feelings. Well-written but quite confronting.
AUCK 014
Several members of our group did not complete reading the book because they found it depressing and/or did not like the writing style. Those who finished it thought it was interesting and authentic, and appreciated the research into the slum dwellers' lives.
All the group found it difficult to read but worthwhile. It has not been written very clearly, with many threads of stories to follow. Had the author placed the Author's Note at the beginning it would have helped give context and purpose to the stories. They are all the more shocking once revealed that it was true documentation and not just a writer sensationalising.
Again, mixed opinions on this book. Those people that had been to India could totally relate to this book. It generated a very interesting and heated discussion.
All enjoyed this book. We all know of Mumbai slums from news items, etc but Katherine Boo's marvellous writing and personal experience brought it to life. We felt admiration for the residents of Annawadi, particularly Abdul, in their acceptance of their lives and the appalling bribery and corruption that they had to deal with at every turn. While they never lose hope of a better life we were not so positive as the scale of the problem is too vast. A worthwhile, if at times an uncomfortable, read. Highly recommended.
CHCH 396
This was our best discussion yet! 3 of our members found the subject matter difficult to read about. The extent of corruption permeating their society opened our eyes. The narrative non-fiction style of the author was new to all of us. A challenging read but one that really ignited the group and led to a great hour of lively exchanges.
NAP 023
A very well-written and detailed account of the lives of the Annawadi slum outside the airport at Mumbai. We were all astounded that Katherine Boo could spend three years of her life researching the real people and incidents she describes. Lasting impressions were of the constant jeopardy yet the lack of comradeship of the people - the desire to better themselves in even a miniscule way caused jealously and disastrous effects! Recommended by all as a great read.
Overwhelmingly sad, well researched and written, and extremely challenging with the odd funny bit. A more in depth discussion than usual, lots to contemplate.
Difficult to score, because most people did not really enjoy this book - finding it interesting, troubling, important but distressing. Some of the writing and imagery is wonderful. Lots of discussion about corruption and its acceptance as normal in the community.
AUCK 226
We all loved this book. We thought the author had done a wonderful job of bringing the characters of the Annawadian residents to us. It provoked much discussion about our impressions of the different "Indias" some of us had experienced, about the impact culture and religion can have on the lives of people in all countries, and of course - " what could we do to help". Tragic, hopeful and explores the value of accepting fate.
CHCH 268
Mixed reviews on this book. Hard to get into, but those who persevered found it a grim insight into the slums of Mumbai. Upsetting at times - a shocking but memorable read.
Interesting to learn of the social hierarchy even in a Mumbai slum. Corruption seemed the biggest barrier to progress. It became quite depressing.