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The Ministry of Utmost Happiness Paperback – May 1, 2018
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Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize
One of the Best Books of the Year: The Washington Post * The Boston Globe * Minneapolis Star Tribune * NPR * Newsday * The Guardian * Financial Times * The Christian Science Monitor
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness takes us on an intimate journey across the Indian subcontinent—from the cramped neighborhoods of Old Delhi and the roads of the new city to the mountains and valleys of Kashmir and beyond, where war is peace and peace is war. Braiding together the lives of a diverse cast of characters who have been broken by the world they live in and then rescued, patched together by acts of love—and by hope, here Arundhati Roy reinvents what a novel can do and can be.
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“Staggeringly beautiful. . . . Once a decade, if we are lucky, a novel emerges from the cinder pit of living that asks the urgent question of our global era. . . . Roy’s novel is this decade’s ecstatic and necessary answer.” —The Boston Globe
“Powerful and moving. . . . Infused with so much passion—political, social, emotional—that it vibrates. It may leave you shaking, too.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Roy writes with astonishing vividness.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Magisterial. . . . The Ministry of Utmost Happiness works its empathetic magic upon a breathtakingly broad slate.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“A fiercely unforgettable novel about gender, terrorism, Indian’s caste system, corruption and politics. . . . A love story with characters so heartbreaking and compelling they sear themselves into the reader’s brain.” —USA Today
“Thrilling. . . . [Roy’s] luminous passages span eras and regions of the Indian subcontinent and artfully weave the stories of several characters into a triumphant symphony.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A lustrously braided and populated tale.” —Vanity Fair
“Roy’s second novel proves as remarkable as her first. . . . Through [the characters’] archetypal interactions, juxtaposed with Roy’s glorious social details, you will have been granted a powerful sense of their world, of the complexity, energy and diversity of contemporary India.” —Financial Times
“Epic in scale, but intimately human in its concerns, the long-awaited story dazzles with its kaleidoscopic narrative approach and unforgettable characters.” —Elle
“The novel weaves the personal and the political with powerful results. . . . Roy turns her lens outward to examine India’s rich but violent history and the catastrophic lingering effects of Partition.” —Esquire
“A riotous carnival, as wryly funny and irreverent as its author.” —The Guardian
“A deeply rewarding work. . . . Images in The Ministry of Utmost Happiness . . . wedge themselves in the mind like memories of lived experience.” —Slate
“Complex and ambitious. . . . A deep and richly satisfying read.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“One of the best protest novels ever written. . . . Roy elucidates the conversation around power and diversity in a way that no other author does.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“A rich, romantic, and sprawling tale. . . . You’re guaranteed to fall in love with the characters and be swept up by the writing.” —Glamour
“Once again, Roy demonstrates her mastery of exquisite prose, visionary intelligence and a bent for epic storytelling.” —The Seattle Times
“Haunting. . . . A passionate political masterpiece delivered in an enchanting array of narrative styles and voices.” —The Times Literary Supplement
“Stunning. . . . Roy’s lyrical sentences, and the ferocity of her narrative, are a wonder to behold.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
About the Author
- Publisher : Vintage; Reprint edition (May 1, 2018)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 464 pages
- ISBN-10 : 052543481X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0525434818
- Item Weight : 12.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #94,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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Top reviews from the United States
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Unfortunately, for me and apparently for a good many other readers as well, a lot of the book sags. It feels as if Arundhati Roy does not quite have her heart in it or believe her own idea, and that hollows out some of the writing. (There's even one section where one of the characters, Tilo, with more than a faint resemblance to Roy, speculates on writing a bad novel: she may have sensed that it was not going well.) If this book had arrived at a publisher's from an unknown writer, it either would not have been published or would have been massively edited. The former would have been sad; the latter might have saved it. Meanwhile, for the American reader, there is a lot of vivid and informative writing about India and much of today's world. For some, it would be more accessible in Roy's non-fiction such as "Capitalism: A Ghost Story."
It was not because the writing was not beautiful. Of course it was beautiful. Roy's prose is poetic and musical. It flows, one sentence leading with the inevitably of rushing water into the next.
It was not because there were no sympathetic characters. Indeed, the pages are filled with so many sympathetic characters that at times it is hard to focus.
Every single one of these sympathetic characters is at the center of a tragic story. There is so much unrelenting tragedy in this book that I began to feel overwhelmed and oppressed by it. And I think my main problem with the book is related to that.
The overarching tragedy here that touches every character's life and becomes the theme of some of them is Kashmir. Bleeding Kashmir. That bit of territory that Pakistan and India have fought over virtually continuously since partition. The appalling atrocities suffered by all sides in the conflict - Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus - pile up unendingly.
Most of the action of Roy's novel takes place after 1984, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards and the resulting violence that wracked the country afterward. She tells her story primarily through the lives of two characters.
The first is Anjum, born Aftab. At birth, the child was a true hermaphrodite, with both male and female sex organs. Raised by her family as a boy, she nevertheless always identified as female and when she had the opportunity to leave home, she became a part of a thriving transgender community in Delhi.
The second primary character is Tilo, a former architecture student. In college, she was a part of a group of four friends who continue to be connected in later life. One of them, Musa, was her sometime lover, a Kashmiri freedom fighter. She later marries another of the friends but continues to travel to Kashmir to visit Musa, who is in constant danger and must live his life on the run.
If the story had maintained the focus on these two lives, I would have found it easier to follow and to empathize with, but the introduction of so many minor characters kept leading me on unwanted detours away from the two heroines of the tale and at times - particularly in the middle of the book - I felt that there was no glue holding it all together and it threatened to fly off into its constituent parts.
In describing one of her characters who kept notes, diaries, and memos, Roy wrote:
"She wrote strange things down. She collected scraps of stories and inexplicable memorabilia that appeared to have no purpose. There seemed to be no pattern or theme to her interest."
That would almost serve as a description of her book.
The strongest part of the book for me was the ending where the writer did manage to bring her various "scraps of stories" together into a well-orchestrated and even hopeful conclusion. It was an ending worth waiting for.
Top reviews from other countries
Just having finished it and realizing that every line in this book somehow resonates with my daily life, one way or the other, the murder of 4 locals this very morning to the Shiraz cinema still used as an army bunker, the truth I live everyday and the tales of 90s I hear from elders, this book has it all. It makes you live through it with each turn of a page. At one point it just seems -- too morbid to be true but then it is. It is the truth people here have lived and we still do. This book is right in the feels while being real to every detail, even if at one point you go "nah this can't be!" but then it is... I'm not much of a book reader to review a book like they're meant to be usually so I'm just trying to review the emotions this book portrays and I can tell you that every emotion in this book is not just an emotion you feel of some imaginary character unlike most of the books out there, it was once or is now someone's reality as well. That's what when you realise it makes you sad, and eventually numb with each turn of page...
Sadly, after a fair start, it turned out to be a turgid plod through what could have been a good story. Roy did conjure up some wonderful scenes with her writing, but at various points I wanted to scream at her to just get on with it. Seriously, it could have been edited to half the length and thereby turn into a very good book. With a pile of books by my bed, I eventually gave up around halfway through.
Of the 12 of us in our Book Club, only four people finished it, and we're all keen readers (but not with infinite amounts of time for reading). I think that says it all really. Our combined score for the book was 2.5 out of 5.
I am going to stop reading it as life is too short - though I do hate not finishing a book