The Illicit Happiness of Other People, by Manu Joseph
The Illicit Happiness of Other People
Manu Joseph is an Indian journalist and an acute observer of the social niceties – indeed, the many horrors – of the world around him. His debut novel, Serious Men, was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction. The Illicit Happiness of Other People is a blend of philosophical inquiry and tart social commentary that features the efforts of a Chennai family to come to terms with the suicide of the 17-year-old Unni, a talented cartoonist. Unni’s father, Ousep, is a journalist and drunk; his mother, Mariamma, is a trained economist who, following a teenage trauma of her own, spends her days talking to the walls of their home; their younger son, Thoma, is in love with the girl next door. The philosophy gets somewhat foggy as Ousep’s compulsive search for meaning in his son’s death morphs into his son’s obsessive quest for meaning in life, but Joseph’s portrait of these fascinating, flawed human beings is smartly written and consistently entertaining.