The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
A novel

73%

13 Critic Reviews

Through rich storytelling and gorgeous prose, Roy doesn’t just reject jingoistic slogans and nationalistic narratives celebrating the making of modern India — she unmasks them.
-Toronto Star

Synopsis

A dazzling, richly moving new novel by the internationally celebrated author of The God of Small Things
 
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness takes us on an intimate journey of many years 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.
It is an aching love story and a decisive remonstration, a story told in a whisper, in a shout, through unsentimental tears and sometimes with a bitter laugh. Each of its characters is indelibly, tenderly rendered. Its heroes are people who have been broken by the world they live in and then rescued, patched together by acts of love—and by hope.
The tale begins with Anjum—who used to be Aftab—unrolling a threadbare Persian carpet in a city graveyard she calls home. We encounter the odd, unforgettable Tilo and the men who loved her—including Musa, sweetheart and ex-sweetheart, lover and ex-lover; their fates are as entwined as their arms used to be and always will be. We meet Tilo’s landlord, a former suitor, now an intelligence officer posted to Kabul. And then we meet the two Miss Jebeens: the first a child born in Srinagar and buried in its overcrowded Martyrs’ Graveyard; the second found at midnight, abandoned on a concrete sidewalk in the heart of New Delhi.
As this ravishing, deeply humane novel braids these lives together, it reinvents what a novel can do and can be. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness demonstrates on every page the miracle of Arundhati Roy’s storytelling gifts.
 

About Arundhati Roy

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Suzanna Arundhati Roy, 1961 - Suzanna Roy was born November 24, 1961. Her parents divorced and she lived with her mother Mary Roy, a social activist, in Aymanam. Her mother ran an informal school named Corpus Christi and it was there Roy developed her intellectual abilities, free from the rules of formal education. At the age of 16, she left home and lived on her own in a squatter's colony in Delhi. She went six years without seeing her mother. She attended Delhi School of Architecture where she met and married fellow student Gerard Da Cunha. Neither had a great interest in architecture so they quit school and went to Goa. They stayed there for seven months and returned broke. Their marriage lasted only four years. Roy had taken a job at the National Institute of Urban Affairs and, while cycling down a road; film director Pradeep Krishen offered her a small role as a tribal bimbo in Massey Saab. She then received a scholarship to study the restoration of monuments in Italy. During her eight months in Italy, she realized she was a writer. Now married to Krishen, they planned a 26-episode television epic called Banyan Tree. They didn't shoot enough footage for more than four episodes so the serial was scrapped. She wrote the screenplay for the film In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones and Electric Moon. Her next piece caused controversy. It was an article that criticized Shekar Kapur's film Bandit Queen, which was about Phoolan Devi. She accused Kapur of misrepresenting Devi and it eventually became a court case. Afterwards, finished with film, she concentrated on her writing, which became the novel "A God of Small Things." It is based on what it was like growing up in Kerala. The novel contains mild eroticism and again, controversy found Roy having a public interest petition filed to remove the last chapter because of the description of a sexual act. It took Roy five years to write "A God of Small Things" and was released April 4, 1997 in Delhi. It received the Booker prize in London in 1997 and has topped the best-seller lists around the world. Roy is the first non-expatriate Indian author and the first Indian woman to win the Booker prize.
 
Published June 6, 2017 by Knopf. 464 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
All: 13 | Positive: 10 | Negative: 3

Kirkus

Excellent
on Mar 29 2017

An assured novel borne along by a swiftly moving storyline that addresses the most profound issues with elegant humor. Let’s hope we won’t have to wait two decades for its successor.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Sep 28 2017

Sweeping, intricate, and sometimes densely topical, the novel can be a challenging read. Yet its complexity feels essential to Roy's vision of a bewilderingly beautiful, contradictory, and broken world.

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NY Journal of Books

Above average
Reviewed by Richard Crepeau on Jun 15 2017

This is not an easy read. It does not flow along smoothly. There are changes of narrators and time jumps backward and forward over decades. Characters abound and are unceasingly interesting, but they come and go, and do not always return.

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Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by ANJALI ENJETI on Jun 09 2017

As she did in “The God of Small Things,” Roy astutely unpacks the layers of politics and privilege inherent in caste, religion and gender identity. Her luminous passages span eras and regions of the Indian subcontinent and artfully weave the stories of several characters into a triumphant symphony...

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Washington Times

Above average
Reviewed by Claire Hopley on Jul 06 2017

Among much else she has highlighted the cruelties of the caste system, the plight of tribal peoples in India and elsewhere, dam projects that displace thousands of villagers, corruption in government, and the horrors of India’s policy in Kashmir.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Karan Mahajan on Jun 09 2017

So it is a relief to encounter the new book and find Roy the artist fully and brilliantly intact: prospering with stories and writing in gorgeous, supple prose.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Jun 05 2017

Happily for the reader who perseveres through such strained passages, Roy weaves the stories of Tilo and Anjum together in the novel’s musical and beautifully orchestrated conclusion...

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LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by Rigoberto González on Jul 27 2017

“The Ministry of Utmost Happiness” unfolds in that liminal space between novel and history lesson, which might disappoint all but her most ardent fans since the fictional story appears to have been written in service to the nonfiction content. Yet there are plenty of moments of dazzling wording and surprising exchanges...

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The Economist

Below average
on Jun 01 2017

By slowly becoming everything.” Alas, “everything” is a recipe for an overlong, unfocused doorstopper, one that would have benefited from a firmer editorial hand.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Alex Clark on Jun 11 2017

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a curious beast: baggy, bewilderingly overpopulated with characters, frequently achronological, written in an often careless and haphazard style and yet capable of breathtakingly composed and powerful interludes.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Natasha Walter on Jun 02 2017

This vision of building something fine and generous feels all the more honest and hopeful because of the harder journeys of much of the rest of the book. Stick with this novel, give it time to grow, and there are lasting rewards in Roy’s ability to create a bright mosaic out of these fragmented stories.

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Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by Sadiya Ansari on Jun 09 2017

Through rich storytelling and gorgeous prose, Roy doesn’t just reject jingoistic slogans and nationalistic narratives celebrating the making of modern India — she unmasks them.

Read Full Review of The Ministry of Utmost Happin... | See more reviews from Toronto Star

Globe and Mail

Good
Reviewed by Durga Chew-Bose on Jun 23 2017

While extreme detail in prose is often misunderstood as whimsy, or can seem tedious, Roy's use of it is more than just democratic or plentiful, it's a matter of bridging distance.

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