THE MIN­ISTRY OF UT­MOST HAP­PI­NESS

ARUND­HATI ROY (HAMISH HAMIL­TON, $38)

North & South - - Review -

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.

SARAH LANG

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