Behind the Beautiful Forevers – Katherine Boo

This is a book I’ve had on my To-Read list for ages, since I first found out about it from John Green’s book recommendations video. I randomly spotted it in the college library and thought I’d give it a go (so begins many of my reading stories).

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This was such an interesting book. I was slightly put off by the title, which I thought sounded quite soppy and sentimental, but this was absolutely not the case. The book was written by an American journalist, who decided to spend 3 years living in a slum in Mumbai. The title actually arises from some adverts for tiles that is on the wall between the slum and the airport. The adverts promise that the tiles will be “Beautiful Forever”, and so the slum itself is “Behind the Beautiful Forevers”.

Anyway, the book follows various inhabitants of the slum, what they do in their day-to-day lives, their aspirations, successes, and failures. Katherine Boo herself is not a character, and it is just told in the third person as if life were going on as normal.

I thought this book offered amazing insight into the lives of people in slums. It was very interesting, and taught me a lot I didn’t know about their struggles, and especially the extraordinary amounts of corruption that they face from all authorities. It raised quite a lot of issues for me about the effectiveness of charities, and how difficult it is to help people in need when they are surrounded by a cage of corrupt authorities.

I thought the topic was dealt with a great deal of humanity, but without being sentimental, or patronising to the characters. I would recommend this to everyone really – I think it’s one of those books that’s “important” to read, in order to understand the problems that other people face.

Incidentally, anyone who’s read this book and worries (as I did) about how helpful the money they donate to charity actually is, I’d recommend you check out Giving What We Can. It’s an organisation that investigates charities, and comes up with a list of the most “effective” ones – i.e. the ones that allow your money to have the most impact. Many of the charitable organisations mentioned in this book are having their money siphoned off by corrupt authorities at a higher level, and it never actually reaches the people it was intended for. I believe GWWC investigates charities very carefully, to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️5/5 stars

XooxoXXOO

May Book Haul – 2016

Hello, I’m here today to tell you about the books I have obtained in May!

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It’s been a fairly hectic month because of exams, but obviously as soon as I finished, I went out on a celebratory book buying expedition. I’ve split the haul into categories based on the place I got the books from.

(Click on the images to take you to the Goodreads pages!)

  1. Library

I literally walked straight out of my last exam and straight to the city library to borrow some books. It’s actually the first time I’ve borrowed physical books from this library – in the past I’ve used their eBook services, and borrowed physical books from my College library, but there’s a lot more choice here. 

Will Grayson, Will Grayson – John Green and David Levithan17208924._UY200_.jpg

I’ve been meaning to read this for a while – it’s the last John Green book I hadn’t read. I’ve actually already read this one, and you can read my review here.

These Shallow Graves – Jennifer Donelly 29908288.jpg

This is a new historical thriller set in 1890s New York. I’ve seen it around a bit on bookish social media, and it caught my eye from the shelf.

 

  1. Penguin

Chasing the Stars – Malorie Blackman28693621.jpg

This is another new release, and it’s a Sci-Fi retelling of Othello, set in space.
I was actually sent this book as an ARC by Penguin. Not for professional book-bloggery reasons – I’m a member of a website called Bookmarks, and I earned a free book by filling in so many surveys! I was mildly sceptical at first, but I’m currently about 100 pages in, and really enjoying it.

  1. Waterstones

The Outsiders – S. E. Hinton32946.jpg

Described as “the original teenage rebel story”, and complete with some moody-looking boys on the front. I feel this is something of a modern classic.

 

  1. Oxfam Books

I love buying books from Oxfam – they’re so cheap, and since the money goes to charity, I seem to be able to justify buying way too many. Every time you go in there’s a different selection of books, and you never know what you’re going to find!

Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe37781.jpg

This one is on so many “must read” lists. It’s about the colonisation of Nigeria, written by a Nigerian author. I think this is quite an important book. Particularly relevant at the moment, with all the “de-colonisation” movements in student politics.

The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver5220.jpg

Carrying on in the colonial vein, this one’s about a family of missionaries who travel to the Belgian Congo in 1959. I’m not sure where exactly I’ve heard of this before, but it sounds familiar somehow. Very interesting blurb anyway.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More – Roald Dahl2016767.jpg

Ah, Roald Dahl, one of my favourite childhood authors. I’ve long been meaning to pick up some of his adult fiction, which I’ve heard is utterly bizarre.

Howard’s End – E.M. Forster3102.jpg

This one was recommended to me by one of my best friends, who read it last summer. It’s about life on a Hertfordshire estate at the turn of the century. I’ve read three other books by E.M. Forster, which I have enjoyed by varying amounts. So we’ll see about this one!

The Viceroy of Ouidah – Bruce Chatwin79913.jpg

This is a title I recognised from my Massive Book List. The Massive Book List is a huge list of “good books” given to us in Year 9 at school, which was basically translated in my head as Massive Reading Challenge. I’ve been working my way through them gradually since then. Maybe I’ll do a future post on the Massive Book List.

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So that’s all folks! Let me know if you’ve read any of these books, and what you thought, or if there are any you plan on reading!

XXoOXOOO

Will Grayson, Will Grayson – John Green & David Levithan

This book is about two characters called Will Grayson, one written by John Green, and the other by David Levithan. The book alternates in point of view, with half the chapters being from one Will Grayson, and the other half from the other. They start off as completely separate stories, and then begin intertwining.

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John Green’s Will Grayson is a classic John Green guy, introspective, geeky, moanily lusting after a female love interest. David Leviathan’s Will Grayson suffers from depression, and has a lot of anger towards the world and the people around him, with his only solace being a character called Isaac he’s met online. Both Will Graysons go to different high schools, and have never met at the beginning of the book.

There were certainly aspects of the book that I really enjoyed, particularly David Levithan’s Will Grayson. I’ve never suffered from depression, but I think these chapters gave insight into that kind of trapped mind, and the rage and helplessness he feels. His chapters, particularly the early ones, felt raw and shocking. A really interesting aspect of this portrayal was the fact that the chapters from this Will Grayson’s point of view were written all in lower case letters. As well as making it really clear which person’s point of view I was currently reading, I think this added to his hopelessness and low self esteem.

There’s also something about books with alternating chapters which means I can’t stop reading them. I think it’s often the way the author can leave you on a cliff hanger, and then you know you have to read the next chapter to find out what happens, by which time you’re then on a cliff hanger for the next chapter, and so on, in a massive cycle until you finish the book. Both authors were certainly very compelling.

One of the main problems I had with this novel was the character Tiny. He’s the best friend of the John Green Will Grayson, described with terms like “fabulously gay”, and “the world’s gayest person”. In keeping with this weird stereotype, he prances around the book like a unicorn drunk on pink champagne, and of course, puts on a massive musical at the end about his “gayness”. I don’t know how qualified I am to comment, but I feel as though this is a massive stereotype that really doesn’t fit with any of the gay people I know, and I don’t think it’s helpful to take these characteristics and describe them as “gay”. Gay means homosexual. Not glittery Madonna-loving sparkle queen. There are straight people who act like that, and gay people who don’t.

I also found the idea of a character like Tiny in a high school quite unrealistic. High schools are fairly unpleasant places, and I can’t really believe that Tiny didn’t get more stick for his flamboyant ways. I know there are a few jabs throughout, and the issue when the football team don’t want him in their changing room, but people were generally quite accepting. I know this is a good thing, but I just think it probably isn’t that realistic.

I in no way wish to slate this book, as I did actually really enjoy reading it. It’s definitely made me want to investigate more of David Levithan’s writing (I’ve already read all of John Green’s other books). Although I did find the ending really stupid.

⭐️⭐️⭐️3/5

XxooXoXoO