Arundhati Roy’s new novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, draws mixed reviews

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arundhati_royFT has described Arundhati Roy’s second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, as “Compelling”.

“Ultimately, Roy’s admirers will not be disappointed,” writes Claire Messud in her FT review. “This ambitious new novel, like its predecessor, addresses weighty themes in an intermittently playful narrative voice. Whereas The God of Small Things — the tale of Rahel and Esthappen, a pair of twins, and their family’s tra­gedies in Kerala, southern India — approaches big issues such as caste divisions and molestation through the personal and domestic, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness embarks from the outset with a broader societal perspect­ive.”

“Now, finally, the second novel has come out, and it is clear that her politics have been part of its gestation,” writes Joan Acocella in the New Yorker. ““The God of Small Things” was about one family, primarily in the nineteen-sixties, and though it included some terrible events, its sorrows were private, muffled, personal. By contrast, “The Ministry of the Utmost Happiness” is about India, the polity, during the past half century or so, and its griefs are national. This does not mean that Roy’s powers are stretched thin, or even that their character has changed. In the new book, as in the earlier one, what is so remarkable is her combinatory genius.”

To Indian critic Nilanjan S Roy, “Arundhati Roy’s second novel is a powerful elegy for a bulldozed world.” She writes in The Business Standard: “At its best, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness can be miraculous in its ability to evoke a thousand small acts of tenderness and everyday pleasures. These are often all that people who are not warriors by nature have as weapons to defend themselves against a time of brutal certainties and rising rage. For all her dark materials, Ministry ends on a note of hope: you can almost believe that things might turn out all right in the end.”

“Booker winner’s polemical instinct is far more developed than her art,” says Eileen Battersby in the Irish Times. “Within pages of this messy and superficial but good-natured narrative, a sensation of déjà vu takes over. It becomes apparent that Roy is gamely striving for a Rushdie-like concoction while failing to replicate his trademark bombastic flourish.”
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Author: Zafar Anjum

I am a writer based in Singapore.

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