The Ministry of Utmost Happiness – Arundhati Roy

The Ministry of Utmost Joy - Arundhati Roy
The Ministry of Utmost Joy – Arundhati Roy

I loved Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things and have vivid memories of devouring it on a wet afternoon in a guest house in northern Laos many moons ago.

Twenty years later, and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is equally wonderful, albeit a long novel with difficult themes: Insurgency in Kashmir, Indian Army torture and murder, the rise of Hindu nationalism in India, ethnic and religious conflicts between Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities, the extremes of poverty and wealth.

But there’s plenty of love and joy in there too, revolving around the outcast communities of Old Delhi.

Publisher page: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness – Arundhati Roy

Anita Felicelli puts it far better than I can in her review: Outside Language and Power: The Mastery of Arundhati Roy’s “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness” – LA Review of Books, 21 June 2017

Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata (Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori)

Convenience Store Woman - Sayaka Murata (Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori)
Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata (Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori)

A very short novel (novella?) about a not-so-young woman working in one of Tokyo’s many convenience stores.

She’s very literal and has never seen the world “as normal people do”. Working in the shop, with its rules, routines and procedures suits her very well. So well that she’s been there 18 years.

And then the arrival of a not-so-compliant co-worker brings changes, both good and bad, depending on your perspective.

Publisher page: Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata (Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori)

The Waiting Land: A Spell in Nepal – Dervla Murphy

The Waiting Land: A Spell in Nepal - Dervla Murphy
The Waiting Land: A Spell in Nepal – Dervla Murphy

I struggle with Dervla Murphy* but I love the places she visited decades ago. In The Waiting Land, it’s Nepal, primarily the Tibetan Refugee Camp in Pokhara and the capital, Kathmandu, in 1965.

* in this case: “Tiblets”, “Tibland” and thinking she’s better than most other westerners in Nepal.

AboBooks page: The Waiting Land: A Spell in Nepal – Dervla Murphy

When Men And Mountains Meet – John Keay

When Men And Mountains Meet - John Keay
When Men And Mountains Meet – John Keay

The subtitle says it all “Exploration of the Western Himalayas, 1820-1875”.

Slow to start, the later chapters – from Gardiner onwards – were a speedier read.

Lots of looking at the handy maps at the start of the book, and cross referencing with my Hindu Kush Adventure, Central Asia Overland, Himalayan Journey from Lhasa to Kashgar and Autumn in Ladakh trips.

Part of what makes this a fascinating period of history is that, as John Keay concludes, none of these explorations would feasible today given the borders and accompanying tensions between India, Pakistan and China. I’d love to be able to trek from Leh to Yarkand…..

AbeBooks page: When Men And Mountains Meet – John Keay