Monday, 23 June 2014

Review: Beautiful Thing by Sonia Faleiro.

Book: Beautiful Thing

Author: Sonia Faleiro

Pages: 214

How Long It Took Me To Read: 2-3 hours ( I couldn't put this books down!)

Read On: Paperback

Plot Summary: Sonia Faleiro was a reporter in search of a story when she met Leela, a beautiful and charismatic bar dancer with a story to tell.

Leela introduced Sonia to the underworld of Bombay’s dance bars: a world of glamorous women, of fierce love, sex and violence, of customers and gangsters, of police, prostitutes and pimps.

When an ambitious politician cashed in on a tide of false morality and had Bombay’s dance bars wiped out, Leela’s proud independence faced its greatest test. In a city where almost everyone is certain that someone, somewhere, is worse off than them, she fights to survive, and to win.

Beautiful Thing, one of the most original works of non-fiction from India in years, is a vivid and intimate portrait of one reporter’s journey into the dark, pulsating and ultimately damaged soul of Bombay.

General Thoughts: When this book first came out in 2010, there was a lot of buzz around and a lot of people loved it. For some reason, I didn't pick it up then because non-fiction wasn't a genre I was interested in greatly. Plus I thought this would be a sob story about the exploitation of bar dancers and I didn't think this was a book for me. 

A couple of months ago, I came across this b00k on Flipkart for fairly cheap and thought I'd enjoy this now...given that I have come to enjoy non-fiction books. 

Things I Liked: 

1. Though this is a non-fiction book, it reads just like a work of fiction. Meaning the writing isn't dry or factual or in the style of a report. The writing is nice. The plot also feels like a work of fiction and the characters and their lives keep you turning pages. 

2. I loved Leela, she is unlike anyone I have read before..which makes sense since she is a real person. A person with hopes, dreams and aspirations. A person is doing the best she can in the situation she is in. She is spunky, strong, hopeful and self-destructive. A loyal friend and a tragically optimistic girl who thinks life will get better. 

3. There are a myriad of intriguing characters in this book. The people the author meets through Leela- her mother Apsara a victim of abuse herself but a horrible mother nonetheless, Priya, Leela's best-friend, a pretty girl, haughty and hopelessly in love with a good for nothing man, the Eunuchs who live and love large and many of Leela's co-workers, each of them with a story of her own. 

4. I loved the tone of this book. It's matter of fact, unflinchingly honest and free of melodrama or sentiment. 

5. I loved reading about a side of my city that I know exists but don't often think about. It's difficult to live in Bombay and not see the other side. The street-walkers, the bars, the poverty and even hear of the violence. And everyone read about the Dance Bars shutting down in 2005 and how it adversely affected the thousands of Bar Dancers. But to read about these nameless/ faceless group at an individual level was an eye-opening experience. 

6. I loved reading about the interactions between the author and many people she meets. It was sweet to see them as regular young girls interested in fashion and the love life of others and hopeful for a happy ending of their own, no matter how grim their present life-situation is. 

What I Didn't Like: 

Nothing really. I really enjoyed this book immensely. I couldn't put it down. But there some mentions and details of sexual violence that could be disturbing to some readers. So keep that in mind when/if you pick this book up. The fact that these are real instances of sexual assault made it even more painful to read. 

Rating: 4/5 

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