The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

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The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

Publication Date: June 6th 2017
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (Penguin Random House India)
Read Date: October 30th 2018
Genre: Literary Fiction / Indian Culture and politics / Contemporary
Pages: 464

Stars: 3.5/5

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Synopsis

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness takes us on a journey of many years-the story spooling outwards from the cramped neighbourhoods of Old Delhi into the burgeoning new metropolis and beyond, to the Valley of Kashmir and the forests of Central India, where war is peace and peace is war, and where, from time to time, ‘normalcy’ is declared.

Anjum, who used to be Aftab, unrolls a threadbare carpet in a city graveyard that she calls home. A baby appears quite suddenly on a pavement, a little after midnight, in a crib of litter. The enigmatic S. Tilottama is as much of a presence as she is an absence in the lives of the three men who loved her.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is at once an aching love story and a decisive remonstration. It is told in a whisper, in a shout, through tears and sometimes with a laugh. Its heroes are people who have been broken by the world they live in and then rescued, mended by love-and by hope. For this reason, they are as steely as they are fragile, and they never surrender. This ravishing, magnificent book reinvents what a novel can do and can be. And it demonstrates on every page the miracle of Arundhati Roy’s storytelling gifts.


reviews

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness was story of shattered characters telling their shattered life story and trying to live in this shattered world with support of hope and companionship. It was basically a fiction story based in India and written around political, social, religious, and regional issues of India with critical view point

what i liked

It was my first book by Arundhati Roy and won’t be the last. I have heard about this author but after reading this book I now know she is fearless writer who writes around the true facts with blunt row truth that not all can digest. I really appreciate her writing, style and the way she portrayed the controversies of India through these stories. What I loved most about the book was plot insights in following stories that will change the perspective of readers.

First story revolved around the life of a Hijara (a eunuch), Anjum who was Aftab before. I loved this story more than any other in the book. If book was written only for Anjum minus all the other small and big stories, I would have given it full star. Book started wonderfully with Anjum raising the question ‘how all hijaras are buried, who says the prayer and how the overall funeral procession take place for them?’ no one has seen this procession and so she decides to form one at the graveyard, and turn into ‘Jannat guest house’. But before that she told her life story at khwabgah, her childhood and her relation with her parents and family, how she came to live in Kwabgah and her life there with history and culture of Delhi.

The view point of a hijara in this book totally changed my perspective. It showed close view on – how they feel, how they go through hormonal and physical challenges and how the surrounding world and politics affects them, the criticism and hurtful comments and treatments they face. It gave the deeper insight on hijara’ life in India. It was written with the magician’s spell that bound me to the story. Characters were so realistic that one could easily put themselves in their shoe and have the whole new perspective.

Author has woven life of Anjum and the tragic events of era – India-Pakistan separation, post effects of separation, 1984 events attack at Golden Temple, death of Indira Gandhi, Demolition of the Babri Masjid, Hindu-Muslim riots, 9/11 attack… In short all tragic affairs from freedom struggle to current affairs and controversies- seamlessly with depth of emotions.

Then came the story of Tilo and her three lovers (Musa, Biplab aka Garson Hobart, Naga). It was lot confusing– first there was a question who Tilo actually loved, if she didn’t love Naga then why she married him, why she came to live as tenant at Garson’s building and then why she went to Kashmir and what happened there – but as I read more I got grip in her story. 

It takes readers from streets of Delhi to valley of Kashmir. What looked like love affair in the beginning turned out to be tragic blood stained account of life in Kashmir. Author raised lot of questions through this story- Who are the real terrorist and who the real heroes in Kashmir are, how people actually lived there and how their life ended and for what, what torture people- either innocent or guilty- go through and if this war of Kashmir with whole other India is ever going to end. Most horrible of all was Amrik Singh, senseless murders and tortures he executed and how that changed Tilo’s life. There was so many things scattered in this story that I don’t how to put it all into words but it will be easy for those who are aware of all affairs related to Kashmir.

At the end story took full circle back to graveyard with the story of Miss Jabeen the second. It was all thought-provoking and jaw-dropping. This book was very different from any book I have ever read.

why not 5 stars

As much as I appreciated writing, plot insights, I didn’t like its terrible slow pace and lengthy paragraphs and chapters. It took me a month to finish this books and I could see why so many readers has abandoned this book. I also thought to put it down for some time and start something else.

Main reason was uneven sequence of the story and some peripheral stories related to main story caused the distraction that drove me off the track as well as confused me at many points. It made me stop reading and think where this is going and what this piece had to do with the story or character, at places it felt like adding more words than focusing on real story.

Second, I didn’t enjoyed reading about Tilo’s story as much as Anjum’s. She was emotionless and I honestly didn’t get why she hated her mother.

In short, boring and dragging at places.

conclusion

Overall, it was insightful, thought-provoking fiction story based in India and written around political, social, religious, and regional issues of India with critical view point. But it is not for all reader, specifically not for those who are not aware of Indian affairs or those who doesn’t like to hear anything against India.


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Author: Arundhati Roy

Buy Link: Amazon.in / Amazon.com


What do you think about the book and my review?
Have you read this book already or any book by this author? Which one is your favorite?
Do you like to read books on Indian cultures and politics?

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Animal Farm by George Orwell

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Animal Farm by George Orwell

Publication Date: 2012 (first published August 1945)
Publisher: Fingerprint
Genre: Classic / Fiction / Literature
Pages: 143
Stars: 5/5

5 star

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Animal farm is allegorical novel that symbolize mainly politics and revolution. Revolution comrades! It’s all about political science and power and corruption. It was written based on the Russian revolution.

Characters represent in Russian revolution like this,
Major- Vladimir Lenin
Snowball- Trotsky
Napoleon- Stalin
Squealer- Vyacheslav Molotov
Dogs- Armed Forces

I honestly didn’t know this before, I did bit Googling! We study different textbooks in India and this, I’m sure, wasn’t anywhere in history lessons. So I saw or analyze them like this,

Mr. Jones – alcoholic owner of Manor farm. Overthrown government. He definitely neglected his duty but I couldn’t help and pity this poor guy.
Snowball- opposing leader, who was also driven out by tactic of Napoleon. He was smart and brilliant and had quite a great ideas for farms and animals. He actually had good intentions. But as it is often said/observed a good person thinking about greater good of the world can’t be a politician as long as cruel and oppressive minds are in opposition who would go at any length to have total control.
Napoleon- existing government who eventually twisted the rules and acted worse than overthrown government.
Squealer- media who speaks for the power to secure their own position by switching the sides.

I liked Benjamin, Clover, and Boxer. But they had their own faults. Clover couldn’t read; Boxer, though inspiration of hardship, was a blind follower; Benjamin who was smart could read and could even see through the deceit, stayed silent and taciturn.

It was amusing to read all animal rising against humans and driving them out of Manor farm and turning it into Animal farm, a farm run by animals and their leader pigs. I liked the way they established commendments and gave importance to education. But as story progresses tricks and misguidance crept in the animal farm and so the dirty politics.

I always believed, those who enters politics are either never are clean or, if they are, they never come out clean.  My father said, the new government/representative that come to power make the previous one look much better. That’s exactly what happened here. The rebellion that started against humans and human nature eventually returned in animal farm and its leaders. They so vaguely turned themselves into humans who used their brain, walked, and ate like human that one couldn’t differentiate them from the other. Such is the quirk and quiddity of politics. Their policies and way were really disturbing to read and I was quite shocked by the stupidity of other animals.

The story delineated the politics, difficulties in forming government, results of revolutions, how the new order set on the name of equality turned to totalitarian and fascism, and how twists in policies, rules, and work structure were made where only leaders were benefited. It also subtly told the importance of education, power of speech, and using one’s conscience and brain. If only all animals were learned the picture might have looked differently.

Bottom line is Equality doesn’t come by its name, it takes both individual and collective contribution to achieve it. No one is ever free in this world as long as there is a power. Where there is power there is corruption. Where there is corruption there is slavery and hunger for commons full belly for riches, free, peaceful and happy world is just utopia.

This book was written years ago but the same methods are applied in today’s politics and it’s ultimately people who are suffering.

Overall, it was shockingly amazing read. Relevant, thought provoking, just brilliant.

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Author: George Orwell

Buy Link: Amazon.in / Amazon.com


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In Pursuit of Platinum: The Shocking Secret of World War II by Vic Robbie

In Pursuit of Platinum

Published: August 26th 2012 by Principium Press

Read Date: December 3rd 2017

Pages: 310

Stars: 4.5/5

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Goodreads blurb_edited

It’s the secret they don’t want you to find out – buried in government archives and not to be revealed until 2045. Now you can read the real story about the attempt to smuggle a fortune in platinum out of Paris in the legendary Bullion Bentley. But the Bentley is carrying an even more valuable human cargo, a mysterious Frenchwoman with a secret that could change the course of the Second World War.

Alena and American Ben Peters are targets of Hitler’s ruthless investigator Ludwig Weber, whose family will be executed if he fails. His orders are to silence Alena before she can reveal her secret; capture her young son and take him back to Berlin; and recover the Banque de France’s platinum. As they flee their hunter, they experience the stark and tragic realities of war and the raw emotions of two brave people living on the edge of fear. And not everything is as it seems. Who is Alena and what is her secret that could destroy everything the Nazi movement stands for?


review_edited

In a Pursuit of Platinum is first book of Ben Peter Thriller Series that as title says, reveals Shocking secret of WWII. Whether the history in book is true or not, it was damn shocking, thrilling, and nail-biting political historical fiction that kept me on the edge of the seat till the end.

Story was third person narrative revolved around three main characters, Ben Peters, Alena, and Ludwig Weber (antagonist). It was about adventurous journey of Ben, Alena, and her son Freddie from Paris to England in the Bentley loaded with most precious metal Platinum, with many obstacles on their way. It was about the secret Alena had against Nazis that could change the course of war.

She was even more important than platinum both for Nazis and British people. To stop her from escaping top German officer and investigator, Ludwig Webner, was given the task to capture her by Adolf Hitler himself. Isn’t that interesting?

What’s the secret, why Germans are so desperate to capture them and what makes Alena more important than platinum? Well, that’s the story.

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Alena– she was such a strong woman. She was so afraid of torture that she preferred to kill her son and herself than being caught alive. That was horrible! Even after everything her will to reach to safety with her son was remarkable. She was a mysterious till second half of the book. She was very hard on Ben in the first half but in second half closeness between them made book sweet and touching. Sad, there was very less romantic chapters in the book.

Ben– He was such a determined guy. He won’t leave Bentley even he could die with it. Seriously! I’m sure whether it was explained or I missed that part (I’m more sure I have missed it but didn’t go back and read those chapters again) but I couldn’t see a solid reason behind his acceptance for the task and his faithfulness to Bernay. Whatever it was this guy was amazing and such a gentleman in the book. I loved his determination and strong will.

Freddie– he was most adorable and likable character in the book.

Ludwig– He was very complex character. At first I hated him, his action and way of getting information was unlikable but as story progressed, I knew him better. This character showed the intensity of love for family. He would go to any extent to save them. I liked reading his perspective in the book.

All characters were well developed and very important for the story, even the smallest side character. Narration from all character’s perspective gave the detailed background of them and by the end of the book I got to know them better.

What I liked_edited

This was second book in historical fiction genre with WWII theme after ‘The Book Thief’ that I loved reading because of its easy to follow writing without much political jargons or heavy old English. I just love to read WWII books.

Perfect beginning of the book! A mother’s turmoil with only option either save her son or kill him, German reaching to border of Paris, a banker’s desperate to save platinum so that it can be used to win back his country, an American- a writer, who doesn’t know how to use a gun was given a task to carry platinum and a Frenchwoman with child away from Germans to London, Ludwig’s terrifying ways of getting information – all this created a tense atmosphere from very beginning. Another thing I liked most was short chapters and all ended with cliffhanger.

She knew she must kill her beautiful son. The decision was made in moment of ice-cold clarity before panic took over and tears began to flow in rivulets of sorrow.

Ben’s desperate efforts to take Alena to safety and Webner hot on their heels made book most thrilling. Journey from Paris to Spain, Estoril and then the final destination England was very exciting, it covered almost 60% of the book and it was very creatively written that I couldn’t put down the book. Ben and Alena stumbled from one problem to other throughout their journey, it created a tight grip in the book that glued me to seat till the end. I couldn’t guess what will happen next in the book.

There comes time when a person knows they are beaten and there are no means of escape. They may not admit it or show it yet deep within the realization they cannot win suffuses their being.

Characters were killing and dying was like normal thing by the end of the book. Bloodshed, cruelty and disrespect to women was so frequent that I was no longer shocked or flinched when they killed anyone in book. Most interesting chapters were character’s life story- Ben’s love of writing and writer Ernest Hemingway which was most beautifully narrated; Alena’s story on what happened to her, how she ended as prisoner of German and why she was so important to them; and Ludwig’s love for his family. Oh and Bentley was the star of book. This car had suffered just like characters.

 “Wars are not just fought with bullets and bombs, the psychology of it can be greater importance.

Climax! My goodness! Book was even more interesting. Author created a mind-blowing suspense in the book. Secret was not revealed till last two chapters. And when that moment came it was wow! Not totally unexpected but shocking, yes! and the way it was revealed was brilliant. I highly suggest to those impatient readers not to read end first, it will ruin the fun of book.

why not 5 stars_edited

Just small thing too many characters and their perspective made it little challenging to follow the story. I had to remember smallest thing about them as it was very important to keep tract of everything in this kind of book. This is what happens- as I said in ‘characters’, I missed that part of Ben’s motive or reason to follow Bernay’s order.

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Overall, amazing, thrilling, chilling, nail-biting, fast paced political Historical Fiction with suspense and adventure that I’m sure everyone would love to read. I strongly recommend this book.  


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Author: Vic Robbie

To know more about author clickHere

Buy Here: Amazon.in / Amazon.com

*** Note: I received a review copy of this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review. I am glad I got a chance to read this book. ***


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Happy Reading! 🙂

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A Pearl for My Mistress by Annabel Fielding

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Published: August 9th 2017 by HQ Digital

Read Date: November 21st 2017

Stars: 4/5

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Goodreads blurb_edited

A story of class, scandal and forbidden passions in the shadow of war. Perfect for fans of Iona Grey, Gill Paul and Downtown Abbey.

England, 1934. Hester Blake, an ambitious girl from an industrial Northern town, finds a job as a lady’s maid in a small aristocratic household.

Despite their impressive title and glorious past, the Fitzmartins are crumbling under the pressures of the new century. And in the cold isolation of these new surroundings, Hester ends up hopelessly besotted with her young mistress, Lady Lucy.

Accompanying Lucy on her London Season, Hester is plunged into a heady and decadent world. But hushed whispers of another war swirl beneath the capital… and soon, Hester finds herself the keeper of some of society’s most dangerous secrets…


review_edited

A Pearl For My Mistress was a historical romance with political movements and life of upper class ladies and their involvement in it. It was all about gossips, scandal, political ploy, and forbidden relationship.  Book was set in 1930s era of London and Nothumberland narrated alternatively by main characters Lucy, Hester and her sister Sophie.

Characters_edited

Lady Lucy– she was a weak caged bird with strong, ambitious demeanor desperate to spread her wings and write a name in history. Dark childhood event tainted her soul with lifelong fear of nonexistence and hunger for power and position. She was interesting character to follow in the book. I liked her in the beginning and even felt empathetic for her but in later part of the story she turned totally different and opposite than I thought.

Hester– She was sensible, caring, and loyal Lady’s maid. She was total opposite of Lady Lucy, never interested in politics and gossips. I liked her for sticking to her morals in all situation. I liked her love and concern regarding Sophie safety, but at the same time it felt like she was missing her point on ambitions and dream. It took me long to understand this character, first I felt like she was over caring and panicky but later I understood her concerns and at the end I like Hester.

Sophie had quite a role in the book as Hester’s sister and also gave background on struggle of living in East end of London.

What I liked_edited

Writing was amazing and very different. It gave the feel of classic books. Sentences and usage of words were so royal. I was lost in golden writing like Hester in this book.  

First half of the book was brilliant. I enjoyed reading picturesque description of Hebden Hall and lavish hotels, ball dance and dresses. This part was all about Lucy’s childhood and her life in Henden Hall which was touching heartfelt story, Hester’s history and her growing relationship with Lucy. It was most important part in book to know about Lucy and Hester and as story progressed the understanding about this character was getting clearer.

Another thing I loved in first half was Hester’s love for reading and books and Lucy’s passion of writing articles. The poetic phrases during the conversations was beautifully narrated.

Second half of the book was little difficult for me to process. Whole political thing was new to me. I didn’t know about all the facts during this era mentioned in this part of the book. It was heavy with Hunger march, Cinema disaster and Blackshirt rallies, and fascism. I almost googled everything to know it better. So, book was slow for me and all conspiracy and plotting made it even harder to understand this aspect. But I got the basic picture of all these thing by the end of the book.

It was focused more on Lucy’s involvement in political affairs and less on her relationship with Hester. Their clashing view and sinking boat of relationship made the book spicy and dramatic.

Climax was surprising and like the way book ended. Still I wanted to know more about later part of the story specifically about Lucy.

I liked all to reads about maid’s life in 1930s in this book. Reference books author mentioned in author’s note at the end sounds interesting and I’m going to look at it later and might read this book again to get clearer picture. It also showed how well researched this story was.

why not 5 stars_edited

Little slow and as I was not aware of historical facts it was hard to understand for me. But it was just me not book.

As I said with little more knowledge on this political history would made it easier to understand.

conclusion_edited

Overall, book was different and interesting right from writing to concept. those who love to read historical romance and political things would love this book.


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Author: Annabel Fielding

Know more about author Here.

Buy Here: Amazon.com / Amazon.in

*** Note: I received review copy of the book from the author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. I am glad I got a chance to read this book. ***


What do you think about the book and my review? Have you read this book already? share your thoughts in the comment-box below.

Happy Reading! 🙂

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