2014 has been another wonderful year for literature, a classic case of so many books, so little time. I ended the year having read 80 books, predominantly fiction novels, but including one play (Mike Bartlett’s perceptive and witty King Charles 111, works of non-fiction and collections of short stories.
An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine (Text)
The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol (W.W.Norton)
The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez (Bloomsbury)
Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki by Haruki Murakami (Alfred A Knopf)
Thank you For Your Service by David Finkle (Text)
Beyond the Beautiful Forever by Katherine Boo (Random House)
The Golden Age by Joan London (Random House Australia)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (Allen & Unwin)
A Winter’s Book by Tove Jansson (A Sort of Book)
His Own Man by Ribeiro Edgard (Text):
The gender division was 66-44 per cent to the blokes, the authors came from
I had been intending to read Behind the Beautiful Forever’s by Katherine Boo for more than a year but somehow had never got around to it. As well as seeing several highly positive reviews of it I have heard Boo talk at a couple of literary festivals to a packed and rapt audience. Last week it finally moved to its rightful place at the top of the pile: It has been well worth the wait. Boo has delicately and seamlessly pieced together a narrative about the lives of people living in the squalid Annawadi makeshift settlement that exists in the shadows of luxury hotels near Mumbai’s new Sahar International Airport.
Boo is a highly acclaimed journalist who has won the Pulitzer Prize for her work on The Washington Post. After marrying an Indian she became interested in telling the story of Annawadi, which is home to more than 3,300 of the poorest people on the earth. At the beginning, she was acutely aware of what she saw as the potential impediments to writing the non-fiction book; she wasn’t Indian, did not understand the language well; and was not steeped in the culture. In the end it was the journalistic challenge that led her to spend months at a time over several years in Annawadi overcoming the impediments by: Time spent in the community, attention to detail, sourcing thousands of public documents … and checking and re-checking until even the inhabitants “were bored with me.”
So intricate and complete is the story that it is frequently hard to believe that the Behind the Beautiful Forevers is not a novel, that the stories are true. Over successive visits to