Living in a relatively prosperous country, the concept of life in one of the gigantic squatter settlements seems almost as close to hell as one can get. The picture I had in my head before reading this book was of short brutish lives living in squalor, with raw sewerage flowing down the street. All of which really goes against what we see as the basic requirements of life.
It's funny how much this book changed my opinions as well as leaving me completely perplexed about what should be the role of ownership of property in these communities. But a good book shouldn't necessarily make life any easier, it should force us to think and it should make us understand that there are no definitive solutions. The real heroes of the book are the inhabitants of the squatter communities who remind us that we are all basically the same. The shear ingenuity, hard work, stoicism and optimism of many of the inhabitants is breathtaking. Some of the national circumstances are truly grotesque but the steadily improving lot of inhabitants in other countries is downright amazing. It's funny the only part of the book that I didn't like was the discussion of the historical/western experience of squatting. I think it was rather dull and broke the flow of the book. It was far, far more interesting hearing the actual day to day stories and experiences of people in the various squatter communities. The historical stuff is disjointed and there were too many disjointed anecdotes and not enough relevance to the discussion of the four different national experiences.It would have been better if this was put into a separate book. It would have been better if the descriptions of life in each of the different communities he lived in was fleshed out more. All said though I enjoyed the book and will be passing it on.