Rarely I start a book and can not put it down until the very last page. Being a avid reader of various topics for many years, Five Past Midnight at Bhopal was one such book, that made me stay till two in the morning, unable to put it down.
I faintly remember the incident at Bhopal, having been fairly young at the time to take in all the details, or appreciate the human tragedy that has occured, so I did not hesitate to buy this book as soon as it was published, being previously unfamilair with the works of Lapierre and Moro.
What makes this book so powerful is its unflinching humanity. Some of the thousands of victims that died that night, suddenly were alive with a history, and the authors with obvious sympathy, transform wretched, destitute, outcast people into heroes..their lives, joys, aspirations, optimism in the face of impossible odds is a wonderful triumph of the human spirit, regardless of how many gods it worships.
The moment when one of these people gets the first TV set, to the amazement of all the slum dwellers, is very touching and powerful..When the wedding preparations are made, and the joy of the parents borrowing money from a usurer to make it the most beautiful day of their daughter's life, is full of dignity..In short, the authors succeed on one level, to pay hommage to people that are forgotten in their own country and certainly in the world.
Yet the whole book is about the tragedy of the factory, and although I believe that the incident was partly caused by the cost cutting of Union Carbide,partly because of the inefficiency, and lack of training of the employees..(I did not join the authors in their apparent anti globalization undertones), the effect and devastation was mind boggling.
Yet why this book works beautifully, is simply because the authors have presented us with the lives of many characters, and when the tragedy strikes, we care enough about these people to turn every page in anticipation to know their fate.
It also reads like a thriller, escalating tension up until the fateful moment..
I did not finish the book accusing anyone, it is a tragic accident, rather I had a great feeling about how great the human spirit can be, the notion of selfless sacrifice coming alive.
If anything, I think the proceeds of this book will help some of the victims, which will make it an essential buy.