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Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars Paperback – 28 Feb 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 225 pages
  • Publisher: Black Classic Press; Reprint edition (28 Feb. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780802170927
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802170927
  • ASIN: 0802170927
  • Product Dimensions: 20.9 x 14.3 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,312,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sonia Faleiro is an award-winning reporter and writer. She is the author of a book of fiction, The Girl (Penguin Viking, 2006) and a contributor to numerous anthologies including AIDS Sutra: Untold Stories from India (Random House, 2008).
Beautiful Thing (Penguin/Hamish Hamilton, 2010) is her first work of non-fiction and is based on five years of research in the secretive world of Bombay's dance bars. It was a Time Out Subcontinental Book of the Year and CNN's Mumbai Book of the Year. Critics described Beautiful Thing as 'a brilliant, unforgettable book by a writer who is one of the best of her generation'.
Beautiful Thing is being translated into several languages. It will be published in Australia in May 2011 (Black Inc.), in the UK in August 2011 (Canongate) and in the US in March 2012 (Grove).
Sonia was born in Goa, studied in Edinburgh, worked in Bombay, and now lives in San Francisco.
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Product Description


Beautiful Thing is a brilliant debut that catapults Sonia Faleiro straight to the top of the premier division of Indian writers of non-fiction . . . Beautiful Thing opens up a hidden world with startling insight and intimacy, and strangely is both a tragic monument to the abused bar girls of Bombay and a celebration of their amazing resilience and spirit. (William Dalrymple, author of Nine Lives)

Faleiro writes her way into the bloodstream with this mesmeric book, fashioned with heart and enviable acuity. A shocking, funny and memorable ride. (Nikita Lalwani, author of Gifted)

A rare glimpse into dismissed lives. Sonia Faleiro brings a novelist's eye for detail and a depth of empathy to her work. This is a magnificent book of reportage that is also endowed with all the terror and beauty of art. (Kiran Desai, Booker prize-winning author of The Inheritance of Loss)

. . . With her we hear, we see, we feel and finally know the world behind that door: a world that was unimaginable before Faleiro drew us there, but is unforgettable when the last page is turned, the last beaded curtain drawn to a close. (Gregory David Roberts, author of Shantaram)

A riveting exposé ... For a book that's so short, Faleiro manages to pack a lot in: pimps, gangsters, transvestites, cops and madams. But its most outstanding quality to my eye is the window it offers on the widespread sexual repression that exists in India today, and the murky middle-class morality that rules it ... The real triumph of Beautiful Thing is how Faleiro dismantles the grand tradition of marriage in India, exposing it for what it is - a form of slavery for a large percentage of women who are bound to their husbands for food and the roofs over their heads, but rarely ever for love. (Observer)

Throws the doors open on Mumbai's sex trade. (Independent)

A harrowing and heart-breaking account . . . a tour de force of reportage, whose depth, insight and resonance make it the equal of the best fiction. [Faleiro] has portrayed the tragedy of this world without a shred of sentimentality. In this she has done justice to her characters for whom sentimentality - like romance, love and honesty - are luxuries they can rarely afford. (Sunday Times)

[Leela's] rich character is sparked to vivid life in a highly coloured work of brilliant literary reportage. (Times)

A gripping and intimate portrayal of the lives of the women who work in that industry. She manages to evoke shock, rage and laughter...this book is a moving testament to the girls like [Leela]. (Literary Review)

Saved from doominess by [Faleiro's] striking empathy, sensitivity, and sharp ear. (Independent on Sunday)

Beautiful Thing is a meticulous, moving account of the battle for social mobility and personal freedom in Bombay. (Daily Telegraph)

In this tour de force of heartrending reportage, Sonia Faleiro shows the ugly brutality which has torn away the foundations of so many lives. ... [an] excellent investigative study of Bombay's dance bars (Independent)

Useless to describe the pathos and singular power of this book. Beautiful Thing is, quite simply, one of the finest books on Bombay ever written. (Spectator)

The rich, gaudy tapestry that Faleiro weaves is a reminder that some of the best recent books about India, such as Suketu Mehta's Maximum City, also about Mumbai, give us the big picture by focusing on the microcosm. (Financial Times)

Beautiful Thing is not for the faint-hearted. The stories of the girls Faleiro meets are as brutal as anything fiction could conjure. (The Scotsman)

Remarkable ... the only hard thing about Beautiful Thing will be putting it down once you've started. ... Truly one of a kind (Curious Book Fans)

A revealing and important book (Sunday Times)

fast-paced, conversational, high-octane (Iain Finlayson The Times)

the contradictions of Leela's hedonistic, heartbreaking life as a badass Lolita crossed with a naively knowing Sweet Charity are thoroughly and empathetically explored (Iain Finlayson The Times)

Rich character is sparked to vivid life in a highly coloured work of brilliant literary reportage (Iain Finlayson The Times)

tour de force of reportage (Sunday Times Culture)

Faleiro does not flinch... even the vilest and most crime-infested alleys of Bombay are no deterrent to her (Ian Thomson Spectator)

Beautiful Thing is quite simply one of the finest books on Bombay ever written (Ian Thomson Spectator)

The last 50 pages read like a thriller... that left this reader wanting more (Sunday Business Post)

Faleiro captures the detail and danger of Bombay exquisitely, testament to her intensive research (The Scotsman)

demonstrates that... one person's life can effectively tell the story of thousands (The Scotsman) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

'A small masterpiece - a sassy, sensitive and deeply moving account of one bar girl's journey spiralling down through the circles of hell that is Bombay's sex industry.' William Dalrymple, author of Nine Lives --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Though a work of non-fiction, Falerio's writing instantly sucks you in and gets you heavily invested in the fate of the protagonist and has you turning the pages through to the end. It could be a paper-back - for it is gritty and titillating as any thriller, yet it is also a report on the state of affairs of young women without means and without protection in urban India.

While targeted at a privileged readership, this book is not a moral treatise or a pedantic talking-to to its reader, and it is most certainly not a cheap invitation to gawk at the lives of others. I think it aims to be a space to put forward the story of these brave, beautiful young women-- because that is what they seek- a listener. And once you have listened to these girls, the question arises, out of your sheer admiration and empathy for their savage spirit of survival - is there anything you can possibly do for them but to change the way you look at them, the way you think about them and what you hope for them?

Falerio's dancing girls are inarticulate, unrefined and uneducated, yet I saw them as TRULY feminist. While they own their femininity, flaunt their sexuality and sell it with impunity, Falerio is able to contextualize this as the only kind of feminism available to these women- the kind that refuses to be patronized, the kind that navigates a grotesquely patriarchal and apathetic society without fear and with hope for something better. They are not simply feminist because patriarchy isn't working for them --.they seek to author their lives themselves. Yet, it is also the kind of feminism yearns to be loved, to be saved, to be safe and to be materially successful.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Although this is a non fiction book, the storyline was good but I didn't feel drawn to it until the last third because I felt excluded by my lack of Indian knowledge.
This book had so much local dialect and Indian phrases, which weren't always translated that I felt it challenging to anyone without such knowledge already. Also, not having visited India, more explanation of the area and other things mentioned would have been useful and would have meant less guesswork.
The subject was fascinating and startling and will cause hours of interesting and heated discussion in our book group but if more appreciation could have been given to the fact that many readers wouldn't understand the Indian dialect and slang used throughout, it would get a better review.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By boingboing on 23 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback
Beautiful Thing - Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars by Sonia Faleiro is a remarkable documentary account of a few years in the life of Leela, a dancer in a Mumbai dance bar, her friends, her clients and her co-workers. It's a life set firmly on the wrong side of the tracks which reveals the power of friendship, honour and companionship which often belies the sordid surroundings. Even more remarkable is the friendship between Leela and the writer which offers Faleiro an opportunity to go where few writers would be able to and at considerable risk to her own health and personal safety.

They say you should never judge a book by its cover but when that cover carries endorsements by William Dalrymple, Kiran Desai and Gregory David Roberts, Indiaphiles will realise that this is something very special and readers should sit up and take notice. I read a lot of books about Indian and have clocked up a lot of non-fiction about the country recently and whilst it's almost always interesting, some of the books can be heavy going and can take some determination to get through. The only hard thing about 'Beautiful Thing' will be putting it down once you've started. For a difficult story in a bleak setting which deals with exploitation of many kinds it's a remarkably easy read that flows like a novel rather than non-fiction.

We learn that life in the dance bars gives the most beautiful and popular girls a wealth that's beyond the dreams of the prostitutes out in the slums and a relative respectability that enables them to be courted by clients who spoil them rotten in return (initially) for little more than a bit of flirting and hand holding.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Chandan D Nath on 5 May 2012
Format: Paperback
great book but the Wow is more at the author. its amazing how she's got into the very heart of things. Cant wait for her next book! Also, what happens to Leela?
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By april on 22 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
This book works on two levels; the direct, narrative one, with the bar dancer Leela at its center, and the deeper, more thought-provoking and analytic one, where I, the reader, wonder about all the abused women and children in the world, in my own world, and wonder what kind of society I live in, where the continued inhumane treatment of vulnerable and weak people is not only tolerated but actively encouraged, for monetary profit as well as for power and influence.
The author's straight and honest approach to her subject, her deep empathy, and her direct and humorous language draws me into Leela's world. Even after finishing the book, I continued to think of Leela, and all the thousands of young people, both girls and boys, like her; maybe even in my very own neighborhood. It is an eye-opening book, deeply researched and felt, and it left me thinking deeply, of trafficking, of incest and of the abuse of those most in need of protection, the young and vulnerable.
I recommend it highly!
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