Behind The Beautiful Forevers – A Book Review

Behind The Beautiful Forevers – Life, Death And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize) is a Raw description of Mumbai slum! No distortion or dramatization of events throughout the book and that makes it more painful.

Review of Behind The Beautiful Forevers

The author, Katherine Boo, has focused on a single slum, its pitiful conditions; but it gives a good picture of what is happening in every other slum of India. The everyday struggle to put some food in the dinner plate, the stealing and snatching for survival is well described. Added to that are the corruption in different levels in different government offices. These are common features and can be generalized to a large extent to all slums. It is disheartening to note that for the slum dwellers, in their pathetic poverty, caste and religion mattered. Even in that abject poverty each one is scheming to pull the other down. Particularly painful reading was the part where Fatima sets herself on fire and dies a painful death just to teach her neighbors a lesson (the story revolves around this incident). And Asha successfully schemes to get rid a poor widow of her only piece of property.


Even in those depressing conditions the characters, mostly the children display a positive frame of mind. They are always full of hope, looking forward and dreaming of a better future. Children who never experienced childhood, for whom discarded Barbies weren’t a toy but recyclable plastic which will fetch them money. They seemed to mind the differences lesser than the adults and didn’t mind sharing and supporting each other. That is indeed very positive!

The book

is the result of Boo’s effort for three years talking to residents of the slum, making notes, video recordings, audiotapes, and taking photographs. That is what makes the book most interesting. Of the four chapters of the book the first two part did well by introducing characters and their background but in the next two lessons it was getting difficult to cope up with each character’s story. Too many loose ends and the book doesn’t have definite ending, which probably indicates life will go on in this manner until something drastic is done to remedy the situation.

Behind The Beautiful Forevers

My Opinion

Behind The Beautiful Forevers was a good read, good in the sense that I got to know a different kind of survival that is going on there. It has created more awareness and the characters have given life and face to what we get to read as incidents in news papers. The book provides a deeper understanding of the society and its various characters. Most noteworthy is that the book has been accepted widely and the slum conditions of Mumbai are now known worldwide. Whether this proves a blessing for the slum dwellers of Annawadi remains to be seen!



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