THE MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS
ARUNDHATI ROY (HAMISH HAMILTON, $38)
Coming 20 years after The God of Small Things won the Booker Prize, Arundhati Roy’s absorbing, sprawling second novel is a journey into India’s heart of darkness. It spans 50 years up to the present day, providing an insider history of post-partition India – its religious violence, casteism, terrorism and regional separatist insurgencies – that you won’t find on Wikipedia. Anjum, a hijra (transgender woman) whose house is built on a graveyard, is a metaphor for an unresolvable IndianPakistani conflict. The second half revolves around Tilo, an unreadable woman caught up in the ongoing territorial dispute over Kashmir. Roy, a political writer and activist, deftly keeps us an arm’s length from the atrocities but close enough to smell the fear. For Anjum, Tilo and their friends, survival, not happiness, is the end game.