The Illicit Happiness of Other People- Manu Joseph :38/52

Dark. Deep. Depressing. Funny. Haunting. Sad. Scary.

A 60 watts yellow bulb, losing the fight to low voltage and weakly trying to light up a musty, mold smelling room on a wet November evening. That was where this book took me. To a dark place where something just sinks inside my insides, does a somersault and sinks a little more.

The same wickedness of Manu Joseph’s Serious Men is still going strong in this book, but the wickedness comes with a sense of melancholy here.  The tired economy is on the brink of throwing its doors open to foreign investors. It is three years since The Leader died and his mistress (ZOMG!), the humiliated Amma is on the rise. People are going on hunger strikes for someone else’s war.  And in a nondescript middle class colony in Madras where ‘all men are managers, all women are housewives and all bras are white’ lives the dysfunctional Chacko family. A mother who wags her finger and talks to the walls, a father who gets his obituary written every night and a twelve year old at the crossroads between child and man, fighting pettiness, losing his innocence. There’s Mythili Balasubramaniam, the girl next door, as good as a good girl should be. And Unni Chacko. Unni Chacko, our hero, who did what he did.

Ousep rediscovers his son through the eyes of his classmates, his friends, eccentric cartoonists, a nun who took the vow of silence, a psychiatrist, a physics teacher and finally his mother. Mariamma wants to understand why the father has suddenly embarked on this journey to rediscover his son. Thoma tries hard to usurp his elder brother’s place. And Mythili Balasubramaniam quietly locks him up in her fond and not-so-fond memories. Everyone is trying to understand why Unni Chacko did what he did.

I can’t review this book. It is a book that needs to be read and relished through your own eyes, own perspective. And once you’re done, draw your own conclusions. Or continue to wonder why Unni Chacko did what he did.

What I think ? Spoiler: I think Unni Chacko did what he did because he suddenly realised that he had become Philipose. And Philipose needed to be punished. By Unni. Again.

I sat through the night reading the book until my eyes protested. I woke up and read a few more pages with toothbrush in one hand and I drove to work at extra speed to open my laptop and continue reading. This book just had to be finished in one sitting. The pages turn themselves and make you crave for more. More Unni.

I’m a very simple person, questioning Life overwhelms me. So there was a lot that went *whoosh* over my head towards the end. Big word syndromes that I totally couldn’t relate to, but syndromes that do exist. Maybe exist closer to me than I want to believe.

If you want to walk into a big black cloud and float around in it for some time, read the book. You’ll stay dark, heavy and sad for some time. But you’ll get out of it. Because as Unni Chacko said, you just can’t escape happiness.

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14 thoughts on “The Illicit Happiness of Other People- Manu Joseph :38/52

  1. I get the feeling that you like “Dark. Deep. Depressing. Funny. Haunting. Sad. Scary.”.
    Placed an order for it thro’ Flipkart. I remember now that I should have consulted you on the cheapest buy.

  2. While on the subject of “Dark. Deep. Depressing. Funny. Haunting. Sad. Scary.” novels, I am reminded of one that was funny-sad, depressing-elevating and definitely haunting.
    It was kind of “historical” in that it is set in a specific period where well documented events have taken place, and some of these events touch the lives of the characters.
    Author Indian
    The title in someways reflects my observation on the novel. Guess the title.

    • OK it is Rohinton Mistry’s “A Fine Balance”.
      A recommended read, if you haven’t read it yet.

      • Ah. I’ve only read Such a Long Journey. A Fine Balance was going to be my next book. Actually, I picked that up first, then chose to read Illicit Happiness instead. But let me read some lighter stuff before picking up another dark one.

  3. Pingback: That Tag | The Book Story

  4. I was re-reading this review just a moment ago – it gave me goose-bumps. Having read the book now, if found that the second and 3rd paragraph of your post so elegantly captures the essence of this book and the first the feeling with which one is left. I loved the book. I guess that your review of it is just as good in recreating the ambiance.
    PS: Jobless? yes, perhaps I am.

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