Book launch event review: Arundhati Roy’s ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’

Every so often I like to get out of my reading comfort zone to explore books that I might not ordinarily choose, so when last night’s event launching Indian writer Arundhati Roy’s new novel ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ came my way, I was keen to attend.

The global launch, as part of the Birmingham Literature Festival and in partnership with Foyles, took place in Birmingham’s Town Hall where Arundhati was in conversation about her new novel as well as her previous novel ‘The God of Small Things’ which was written 20 years ago and won the Booker prize, and the many non-fiction pieces she has written in between.

The Town Hall was a well-chosen setting; the serenely lit stage with the backdrop of the hall’s majestic pipe organ provided a calm and peaceful atmosphere; as did Arundhati, whose presence was elegant and graceful.

It was an insightful evening which began with a short film that transported the audience into the heart of the book’s settings of Delhi and Kashmir.  Along with two excerpt readings by Arundhati, what followed was an engaging conversation in which she discussed various topics including how she approached the writing of the book, how her choice to tell this particular story through fiction was intentional and how her own political experiences inform her writing.

The opportunity to hear an author speak about their motivations and inspirations, and their individual approaches to researching, writing and editing a novel, is always so interesting to me – the most memorable quote from the night was by Arundhati herself and will stick with me forever, “Writing a novel is a prayer, a song.”

I left the event feeling both saddened and enlightened about the struggles and hopes of the people and places Arundhati writes about and I am grateful for the deeper insight into ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.’

Thank you to the Birmingham Literature Festival, Foyles Birmingham and the town hall for hosting this event and I look forward to attending more events like this soon.

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