A quirky and darkly comic take on domestic life in southern India.
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. The Illicit Happiness of Other People is a smart, wry, and poignant novel - teases you with its mystery, philosophy, and unlikely love story.
"Wonderful... The Illicit Happiness of Other People... injects dark, rueful laughter into an immensely touching story of loss." (Wall Street Journal)
"The Illicit Happiness of Other People is ambitious. It is the story of a family getting to know itself, of a socialist India that no longer exists and of a society obsessed with grades. It is a plot-driven yarn with themes of morality, sexuality, psychiatry and yet more science and philosophy.... But it does not feel overburdened.... Quite an achievement." (The Economist)
"Starred review. Joseph writes with extraordinary wit, cunning and sympathy about both family relationships and ultimate mysteries." (Kirkus Reviews)
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Quirky, humorous, sad
The characters and the structure of the storytelling were enjoyable. The philosophical basis is presumably existentialist. However, the writer does not hit us over the head with any philosophical lecturing. The teenaged character does verbalize opinions about a philosophical perspective on life, we get it as hearsay from his friends and acquaintances - but this is just the sort of stuff about which extremely intelligent adolescents may obsess,
One thing I liked about the narrator was that he had a clear Indian accent, and had correct pronunciations for vernacular words. The accent is not accurate for South India, but it is quite acceptable. This was much better that other novels by Indian English authors I have listened to on Audible. Unfortunately, the narrator had very poor phrasing. Most sentences were phrased "Subject [rising tone, audibly long pause] predicate [falling tone]". For most sentences, this injured the meaning of the sentence.