It's been 20 years since Arundhati Roy's last novel was published, the astonishing The God of Small Things. Her new one, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness was worth the wait.
Grief and hope are inseparable. Life, love and death: it's all mixed together. A brilliant, breathtaking novel, featuring a wide cast of characters swirling around Anjum, an intersex hijra in Delhi. There's even a character with my name, a young Australian hippy who marries a crusading Indian journalist and then gets arrested for trafficking heroin.
I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the author, then picked up a paper copy so that I could savour her brilliant prose:
"They had always fitted together like pieces of an unsolved (and perhaps unsolvable) puzzle - the smoke of her into the solidness of him, the solitariness of her into the gathering of him, the insouciance of her into the restraint of him. The quietness of her into the quietness of him."
"A posse of mop-haired dogs smelling of perfume and cigarette smoke ran amok among the guests, like a small army of yapping, motorized floor swabs."
"Some distance away a bare-torsoed man, with yellow limes stuck all over his body with superglue, sucked noisily on a thick mango drink from a small carton. He refused to say why he had stuck limes to his skin or why he was drinking mango juice even though he seemed to be promoting limes, and grew abusive if anyone asked."
"...the battered angels in the graveyards that kept watch over their battered charges held open the doors between worlds (illegally, just a crack) so that the should of the present and the departed could mingle, like guests at the same party. It made life less determinate and death less conclusive. Somehow everything became a little easier to bear."
"How to tell a shattered story? By slowly becoming everybody. No. By slowly becoming everything."