Book 21: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness Arundhati Roy


This was a book I had been waiting to read, long time before its release in June 2017. As soon as I started to read, somehow my initial enthusiasm was lost. My mind invented ‘n’ number of reasons to stop reading; but eventually with sheer perseverance(I lack perseverance for everything in life except reading!), I completed this novel. In one word if I am asked to sum up my experience, undoubtedly I  would say ‘disappointed’!

The plus points:

  1. Of course,  I have no argument about the command that Roy has on English language. She can effortelssly weave words into something beautiful and divine. One of my friends rightly pointed out, “When it comes to Arundhati Roy, language behaves like a dog wagging its tail obediently.”
  2. The attempt to view the political events that happened in India through the eyes of a third gendered person can be considered as a  novel approach.
  3. Certain aspects of Roy we see in the character Tilo, makes that character endearing. Tilo, since she had elements of truth in her, was the only character in the whole book with whom I could empathise.
  4. The courage that Roy demonstrates by using an unconventional narrative style to tell a story which is dear to her heart, is praiseworthy.  Narration proceeds from third person in the former half to first person in the latter half.
  5. This is a political novel and reflects the bold stand Arundhati Roy has taken on various issues prevailing in our country over the last 20 years.

The minus points:

  1. Simply put, the book was not readable. What I mean to say is that, the flow of narration is lost in the events described and the characters are drowned in the situations portrayed. Plenty of soulless characters who were mere spectators to the events described could be found on almost every page.  It took a lot of effort on my part to maintain that momentum required  to complete a novel.
  2. I felt as if the characters were created for the sole purpose of revealing the political stand of the author. I agree personal is political and vice versa. But I firmly believe that fiction involves creation of the highest order. During the process of creation, if the spirit is lost, then everything would appear to be artificial. Every creative process should retain life or else it would become intolerable, miserably failing to evoke the empathy of a reader.
  3. I felt that the author failed to penetrate the mind of any character beyond the superficial level.
  4. After reading, you would easily be able to sense a scarcity of imagination in the entire novel and plot.  Definitely this story deserves to be told in a better manner.
  5. Excesses do not make a good novel. (Nobody would want to read a newspaper again in a novel. )

This is the review that took the longest time to write( in 2017). I realise that you need to ‘experience’ a book, to  critically review it. Sadly, Arundhati Roy whose pen I thought was mightier than all swords, failed to create even a small ripple in my mind with The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness.


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