Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

Author(s): Katherine Boo

Politics | Biography / Memoir




From Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo comes a landmark work of narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the world's most lively but treacherous cities.

Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport and, as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees 'a fortune beyond counting' in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter -- Annawadi's 'most-everything girl' -- will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a 15-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call 'the full enjoy'.

But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.

With intelligence, humour, and deep insight into what connects human beings in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the 21st century's hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget.


'Boo's meticulous work is a must for India watchers, of course, but it is also a great example of the power of what used to be known as immersion journalism. And a cracking read.' The Age

'[An] exquisitely accomplished first book.' The New York Times

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity is a book of non-fiction by Katherine Boo. Boo is an American journalist, married to an Indian man. The book is the result of her four years spent researching the lives of the people living in the slums beside Mumbai Airport. Harrowing and gut-wrenching, this is an important book, written with great compassion. - Susi

The author is a Pulitzer Prize winner and this book, although non-fiction, reads like a novel. It is about life in the slum of Annawadi, which is next to Mumbai Airport and its accompanying luxury hotels. We meet some of the slum’s citizens and follow their lives and struggles to improve their lives. Although you do find in reading this book that life is cheap in India. A fascinating read and a great insight into India's underbelly. - Peter


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Samuel Johnson Longlist 2012

"Without question the best book yet written on contemporary India. Also, the best work of narrative nonfiction I've read in twenty-five years." - Ramachandra Guha, author of India After Gandhi

Katherine Boo, a staff writer for The New Yorker, has spent the last twenty years reporting from within poor communities, considering how societies distribute opportunity and how individuals get out of poverty. This is her first book. Pulitzer Prize Winner.

General Fields

  • : 9781921844638
  • : Scribe Publications
  • : Scribe Publications
  • : 0.284
  • : November 2011
  • : 210mm X 135mm
  • : Australia
  • : December 2014
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Katherine Boo
  • : Paperback
  • : 1
  • : English
  • : 305.5/690954792
  • : 288