18 Dec 2017

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

REVIEW BY NICOLA HARWOOD

I loved The god of small things, and have been hugely impressed by Arundhati's eloquent support and work for human rights in India over the 20 years since her debut novel won the Booker prize. So expectations for this novel were high.

Ministry of Utmost happiness

It is not an easy read - a shattered narrative which reflects the shattered lives and country she depicts - with a large number of characters, making it difficult to always grasp what is happening, or who people are. It is a book of many stories - a trans woman from Delhi, a man from an untouchable background passing himself off as a Muslim, a government official retired from a post in Kabul, a resistance fighter in Kashmir, a woman in the Maoist rebellion in Bastar, a rebellious woman who kidnaps an abandoned baby - and this baby, whose story does manage to pull all the threads together. It is a book you need to stick with, and bring patience to. Just go with the diversions and distractions - the detail of the world around you, the politics of the country, the violence of Kashmir, the varied relationships, and in the end it will win you over. It is intimately a novel of community (whatever that means) and some hope.