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Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found [Paperback]

Suketu Mehta
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
RRP: £9.99
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Book Description

5 Sep 2005

Bombay's story is told through the lives, often desperately near the edge, of some of the people who live there. Hitmen, dancing girls, cops, movie stars, poets, beggars and politicians - Suketu looked at the city through their eyes.

The complex texture of these extraordinary tales is threaded together by Suketu Mehta's own history of growing up in Bombay and returning to live there after a 21-year absence, and in looking through the eyes of his found the city within himself.

Part memoir, part journalism, part travelogue, and written with the relentless observation and patience of a novelist, Maximum City is a brilliantly illuminating portrait of Bombay and its people - a book as vast, diverse, and rich in experience, incident, and sensation as the city itself.

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Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found + Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum
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Product details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review; New Ed edition (5 Sep 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747259690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747259695
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 3.9 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 95,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Pick of the Week - 'If there's been a more striking snapshot of the changing face of Asia, I've never read it. With energy, wit and endless reserves of empathy, Maximum City leaves you desperate to see Bombay for yourself...' (Sunday Times)

'... it is Mehta's enthusiastic and intrepid self at the centre of his narrative that lends his account its appeal and memorable poetic charge.' (Observer)

'Mehta's extraordinary, and extraordinarily rich book, is both testimony and warning; a snapshot of a city full of vitality and hate.' (The Telegraph)

'Combining an insider's knowledge with a visitor's detachment, he prises open the rotten underbelly of the city to expose an unforgettable picture of depravity, greed sectarian strife and corruption. This is a stupendous book' (Mail on Sunday)

Book Description

A wonderfully evocative, superbly written and highly acclaimed account of the world's first megalopolis.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing and fascinating 25 Oct 2005
I picked up this book at the airport in a rush ahving read some good reviews of it. It's a difficult book to catergorise: part-travelogue, part memoir, part politico-sociological study, but altogether more than that. It offers a fascinating insight into one of the world's largest, most vibrant and most chaotic cities. The author is an Indian who spend his early years in Bombay (Mumbai) and then his adolescence in New York. Having made a name for himself as a writer in America, he returned to Mumbai to write a book.
The first few chapters cover his culture shock and the difficulties of adjusting to India for someone from the US. Then he covers the politics, crime, pleasure and entertainment parts of Mumbai, always meeting an engrossing cast of characters and always allowing them to tell their own story. Some are hit-men, some are dancers/prostitutes, some policemen. He helps Bollywood producers with their scripts, chats to gang bosses, befriends a transvestite bar-dancer and meets corrupt and dangerous politicans.
It is no rosy-eyed view of the city, or India, and in parts the author's righteous indignation at the corruption in India is apparent, but for the ordinary people that make up his story he is amazingly non-judgemental, leaving it to the reader to decide.
My only criticism is that sometimes the author is a shade bumptious, a shade too self-satisfied, but it is rare and doesn't really spoil a marvellous book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mumbai will never be the same again... 9 May 2005
Sukhetu Mehta's book Maximum City has continued to surprise me with its frank and startling probes into the dark heart of Mumbai. Politicans, gangsters, police, assassins, bar-line girls, prostitutes, the Filmi crowd and business men all have their stories told in Metha's un-self-conscious style. I have been a frequent vistor over the past few years but now Mumbai will never be the same to me or anyone who reads this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 3 Jan 2006
By A Customer
This is an excellent book about a teeming city with many layers and the author has been able to identify and show us those layers in a readable, yet authoritative way. There is no book quite like it on Bombay or, for that matter, any other major city, bar perhaps London. It will, I am sure, set the standard for books about other big cities for a long time to come. Even those who know Bombay will find something new this book which covers every aspect of Bombay life you can imagine, including what it is like for the expat or 'returning' Indian to return to live there. Mehta has a good eye for the minutae of life and always deals with it in a good humoured way. My only beef is that it is overly long, and, because it was many years in the writing, is somewhat dated in parts - this is particularly the case when talking about local politicians and Bollywood stars, where the configuration of who is up and who is down has changed, in some cases quite radically since the book was researched. For these two reasons alone, four stars instead of five.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Ash
I bought this book because the title intrigued me and it was a Pulitzer finalist and so I was expecting something perhaps special and comprehensive. I was expecting an insight into the essence of the city and what keeps it ticking. But, halfway through this book, I realised that the city and its spirit were lost, never to be found again in the rest of the book!

There was so much promise and so little delivered in this book. There is so much that is the spirit of the city lacking in this book. It is too much and too little at the same time - too much of power and darkness and frivoulous bollywood and too little of the people who make it, their indomitable spirit and sense of respect for individuals and their privacy, the melting pot that makes the city a thriving trade center, too little of the industries and the dynasties that originated here and are the backbone of the spectacular run of India Inc.

All in all, if the book had been renamed as "gangs of bombay", the author's writing would have done justice to the title
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating account of Mumbai underlife 19 April 2005
This is a fascinating account of life in Bombay that one never suspected existed, and a very unusual book. I am easily bored by books but I could not put it down and just kept reading. It gives an unusual level of insight into the lives of an asortment of ordinary people with extraordinary lives and beliefs, and teaches us something about ourselves along the way. It demonstrates that reality is often stranger than fiction. The Economist, which is always a good guide, gave it an excellent review (9 April 2005).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is a great book that takes you through the highs and desperate lows of life in the world's busiest city. As densely packed as the city it describes, you'll feel you've spent two years there yourself once finished. Mehta takes his time - this is a not a book for those who need instant rewards - but it's only through doing so that he illustrates how Bombay's very nature draws out humanity in all its colours.

Beautifully written, sensitive and painstakingly precise, but be warned: this is no guidebook.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore the whingers. This is a good book! 10 Jan 2007
Fell asleep reading it? Too long? Too self-indulgent? These people must have read the wrong book. Or the right book in the wrong way.

I thoroughly enjoyed it myself. The landscape of people is broad, unsentimental and nicely coloured: all human life is here. There is a degree of soul-searching, on the part not just of the author but of many of the people he meets, but this, I think, is a condition of being an Indian these days, and in particular, an Indian in such a weird and wild city as Bombay. Or Mumbai, if you prefer. (The author doesn't!)

I thoroughly recommend it - and you don't need to know much about the people, the place or the culture to enjoy it, you really don't.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally Fascinating
I so enjoyed this book - it is well written, and ranges wide and far across the city, highlighting the sheer diversity of people, and recounting in detail a wide range of... Read more
Published 10 months ago by traveller
2.0 out of 5 stars A surprising disappointment
With a cover illustration similar to the view from the nearby retiring rooms I am very familiar with, I did anticipate a more down to earth account of the complex life in this... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Tony Roberts
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read. I recommend it.
The city inside out, examined by a writer with an insider and outsider viewpoint. I found it riveting. A must for anyone visiting the City
Published 14 months ago by M. V. Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and insightful account
A visitor to India sees the energy, the beauty and the magnificent variety of this vibrant country. This book gives a measure of the sinuous undercurrents and political threads... Read more
Published 14 months ago by dr michael f bamford
4.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag - and a very large one
I've spent a very little time in Bombay so was interested to get a feel for that huge teeming city. Mehta a journalist returning after a long absence provides both an insiders and... Read more
Published on 20 Jan 2011 by Lendrick
2.0 out of 5 stars Maximu City Bombay lost and found
Fairly readable. A shorter version would have achieved better result. Only Indians could understand the way it was narrated. Read more
Published on 2 Jan 2011 by Mr. S. S. Khatu
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book
This book evokes Bombay even better than Shantaram. Short of being there you won't get a closer experience.
Published on 9 Feb 2010 by Mrs. J. M. Balfour
3.0 out of 5 stars Snapshot
Am trying how best to review this book and the one word that keeps coming to mind is 'snapshot' Mehta provides a vivid snapshot of Mumbai during the 2 years he spends there as an... Read more
Published on 9 Sep 2009 by R. Mehta
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Insightful
This book was amazing. I felt like I was living in Mumbai whilst reading it, (and I've never been there before)! Read more
Published on 25 Feb 2009 by Pardeep Deol
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read,
This book certainly peels away the layers of what it is like to live in Bombay, a City like no other in the world. Read more
Published on 16 Feb 2008 by Barry Donnan
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