This was my book club book for June. I had miscalculated when book club was on and thought I had ten days to read it. Then realised book club was actually four days away. So I started the book. A non fiction book. Now I always struggle with non fiction. Of course I have read lots of non fiction over the years. You can’t get a history and politics degree without doing so. Or indeed a marketing degree or keeping up my status as a Chartered Marketer. But if I had a choice I would choose fiction hands down.
I started the book and if I am honest immediately struggled. I commented to my husband that I wasn’t sure I could finish it. Then the day before Book Club I got an email saying my creative writing course was on the same night and given there is only a few of us I decided to go to that instead. My husband commented “Well that will be the end of your non fiction reading then.” To his surprise I said “Actually no I am nearly finished and I want to know what happens.”
I had totally immersed myself in my non fiction book. Why? Because it read like fiction. The characters and stories were utterly compelling but yet it was all true.
The book is set in slums in Mumbai near the airport. It focuses on a couple of the families and their day to day life over a period of a year. Many of the stories are truly horrific and it is a real insight into daily life for Indian Slum dwellers. The constant set backs they have just to live. The corruption that abounds and if targeted can destroy a family in an instant. The very vulnerable position of women in Indian society. The sad reality that there is no childhood just hard work sifting through garbage from a very young age. Yet along side this there is the belief for all that their luck will change and that if they do work hard they can become one of the new Indian Middle Class. The importance of food being central to family life and the cooking and eating of meals. And overall the pride that they take in the midst of such squalor.
To quote the Sunday Telegraph
“A masterpiece….. it is, quite simply, one of the finest works on contemporary India yet written.”
I would agree.