Lost in a Book

I’m a voracious reader, and a good reader. Over my lifetime I’ve read thousands of books, probably in the tens or hundreds of thousands of pages. I’ve only been lost in a book one other time, when I read Mein Kampf — in English — for a high school extra credit project. I already had the fine art of bull***t down, so I wrote the report anyway, making it sound as if I knew what I had read even though I hadn’t a clue. The puffery didn’t come from something like Cliff Notes — which if they existed, eluded me. I made up the report on Mein Kampf all out of my own head. Probably I got the extra credit, although I don’t remember. I think I would have remembered being called out.

I loved Arundhati Roy’s novel The God of Small Things, so when her new novel — The Ministry of Utmost Happiness — came out I was eager to read and got it on my Kindle. I’m about 60% through, and I must say I keep getting lost and having no idea what’s happening. That the main character changes right in the middle of the book doesn’t help. Nor is it useful to me that large swaths of the writing, although often beautiful and evocative, are basically polemics directed toward illustrating the horrors experienced by the millions of poor in India. Several times now I’ve had to go on Google to find a review of the book, which gives a plot summary, to know where I am.

I almost never drop a book mid-stream, especially from an author I’ve liked. But I might drop this one. I find myself skimming large sections, only focusing back in to read when it looks as if the plot line is moving forward. With 40% of the book left to go, that’s a very unsatisfying way to read.

Has anyone else read this book, and have you had a better time of it than I?

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