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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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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.
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on 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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on 3 January 2006
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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on 10 January 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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on 29 May 2013
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 situations and experiences. This book is one of the few I've read which conjures up in words a portrait so vivid you can actually 'see' the city. Brilliant!
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on 25 January 2007
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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on 2 February 2013
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 that underly the foundation and fragmentation of the community.
A startling and necessary account.
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on 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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VINE VOICEon 20 January 2011
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 an outsiders view of things, it's a fascinating and at times riveting read. The sections on power housing politics, gangs and the police are particularly good.

But times it also at times an uncomfortable read. The author befriends a female dancer and the line between journalistic reportage and personal involvement seems to get seriously blurred. Mehta himself comes over as a little too self-satisfied at times.

The book focuses very much on the seedier side of the city and I'd like to have got a broader sense of the city residents.
Worth a read for anyone interested in India and Bombay.
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on 4 June 2008
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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