Top positive review
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Engrossing and fascinating
on 25 October 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.