Novel of the week
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
Attempting to summarize Arundhati Roy’s first novel in 20 years “feels like trying to capture the Ganges in a teacup,” said Ron Charles in The Washington Post. The author of The God of Small Things has written a book about India so packed with incident that it’s “always threatening to surge beyond its covers.” It opens in 1950s Delhi, with a mother discovering that her newborn is a hermaphrodite. The child will grow up to enjoy celebrity as a hijra, or member of a “third gender” that has long been recognized in India. But nearly halfway through the book, Roy turns her focus to Kashmir’s bloody struggle for independence, and to a woman loved by three men. Only late do the two halves of the book cohere. Roy is a writer more in the mold of Dickens than of Tolstoy, said Claire Messud in the Financial Times.
“You will not finish this novel with a profound psychological understanding of its characters.” But through their interactions, juxtaposed with Roy’s “glorious” social details, “you will have been granted a powerful sense of their world.”