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Ousep Chacko, journalist and failed novelist, prides himself on being “the last of the real men.” This includes waking neighbors upon returning late from the pub. His wife Mariamma stretches their money, raises their two boys, and, in her spare time, gleefully fantasizes about Ousep dying. One day, their seemingly happy seventeen-year-old son Unni—an obsessed comic-book artist—falls from the balcony, leaving them to wonder whether it was an accident. Three years later, Ousep receives a package that sends him searching for the answer, hounding his son’s former friends, attending a cartoonists’ meeting, and even accosting a famous neurosurgeon. Meanwhile, younger son Thoma, missing his brother, falls head over heels for the much older girl who befriended them both. Haughty and beautiful, she has her own secrets.

REVIEW : This was the book of the month in my bookclub and I read it with relish. Sort of. While Manu Joseph does show the tiniest details of each character it does take a particular kind of mood to be able to read and love this book. In The Illicit Happiness Of Other People he shows off this gift by talking about a family that is trying to find out something about their son. Their tantrums, habits, idiosyncrasies, all get stronger and stronger as days pass and they have no explanation. The father, who cannot think of much else, questions each of his son’s friends, one after another, over and over again to find out why his son killed himself. The mother spends most of her time talking to the kitchen walls, the younger brother spends the rest of his time living in the ever looming shadow of his elder brother’s greatness.

The book follows group mentality, psychological problems, philosophies, church politics and most importantly, relationships. I must say Mariamma’s character and Ouseph’s character are so similar yet so in conflict that it was a absolute pleasure to read.

It was a different read from an author who doesn’t assume that his readers are imbeciles like most of our popular authors do. But, there is one thing that has to be said about this. Don’t let the preppy cover fool you into thinking that this is a quick read that can be finished in a day. Far from it. It makes you think and makes you see the bad side of men. It makes you feel sorry for people and makes you feel superior to them. It just isn’t an easy read.

I found myself having to pick it up rather reluctantly after having put it down but while I read it I couldn’t bear to part with it. It’s so funny in parts that I peed a little almost peed a little. I’m torn. I want to rate it three stars because it really wasn’t that fun to read. But then the writing in parts is so brilliant that it deserves four stars. I’m unable to make up my mind about this book. I enjoyed it, certainly. But I didn’t fall in love with it.

Having said that do read Manu Joseph. He is one of those authors that you just have to read, atleast once.

Buy The Illicit Happiness of Other People

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