Mar 2018 The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

Book Group 1 – March 2018



Roy’s book is about the vulnerable on the margins of society, outcasts who eventually come together and make a community in a Delhi graveyard. Two of the main characters are Anjum, a flamboyant transsexual or hijra, who is searching for her place in the world, and Tilo, a rebellious architect, who’s great love is a Kashmiri terrorist. The book deals with some of the darkest and most violent episodes of modern Indian history, which are chillingly portrayed, including the insurgency in Kashmir. Along the way we are introduced to dozens of characters, historical documents, polemics and poetry.


Our group had a lively discussion about the book’s treatment of gender issues, politics, themes of the outsiders in society and the fundamental importance of community. We are fortunate to have members who helped us to gain perspective on Roy's satirical zingers of modern Indian political leaders, an important dimension in her writing. Many of us expected to love this book, having read Roy’s first novel, The God of Small Things, but found this one much harder going. At points the writing is lovely, with scenes described in such a way that one feels like one is there, seeing what the characters are seeing.  Yet, it is a fragmented novel, more like a collection of barely related stories that move backwards and forwards in time. Most of us felt that although passionate and ambitious to a fault, it was less than the sum of its parts.



Terry Piech