Seventeen-year-old Unni has done something terrible. The only clue to his actions lies in a comic strip he has drawn, which has fallen into the hands of his father Ousep - a nocturnal anarchist with a wife who is fantasizing about his early death. Ousep begins investigating the extraordinary life of his son, but as he circles closer and closer to the truth, he unravels a secret that shakes his family to the core.
Set in Madras in the 1990s, where every adolescent male is preparing for the toughest exam in the world, this is a powerful and darkly comic story involving an alcoholic's probe into the minds of the sober, an adolescent cartoonist's dangerous interpretation of absolute truth, an inner circle of talented schizophrenics and the pure love of a 12-year-old boy for a beautiful girl.
Manu Joseph is a columnist with the International Herald Tribune, the global edition of the New York Times. This is his second novel. His first darkly comic novel, Serious Men, won the Hindu Best Fiction Award 2010 and was one of Huffington Post's 10 best books of 2010. It was also winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize and shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction.
'Quite an achievement' — The Economist
'There's plenty to enjoy . . . the key revelations are powerful, as a final twist transforms the novel from an offbeat romp to a melancholy take on the age-old story of adolescent desire and its frustrations' — Metro
'Both wittily funny and darkly serious' — Daily Mail
'Joseph's prose is exquisitely phrased without an excess of sentimentality...the confident, immersing voice of ILLICIT HAPPINESS promises readers this is not the last we've heard of Manu Jospeh' — Daily Telegraph
'A refreshing read' — Time Out
Praise for Serious Men:
Manu Joseph's first novel elegantly describes collisions with an unyielding status quo, ably counterpointing the frustrations of the powerless with the unfulfilling realities of power. With this astute comedy of manners he makes a convincing bid for his own recognition as a novelist of serious talent, the latest addition to a roster of Indian writers who are creating fine literary art from their country's fearsome contradictions
— Peter Carty, Independent
Manu Joseph's satirical tale of an ostensibly new India still in thrall to its caste-ridden and sexist traditions is so much more than a mere comic caper . . . Sophisticated entertainment — Catherine Taylor, Guardian
The finest comic novelists know that a small world can illuminate a culture and an age...with this sad-funny debut Joseph does just that — Boyd Tonkin, Books to light up lazy days, Independent
He has written a debut novel that skewers a society where new ambitions and older class divisions co-exist. From the contrasts of contemporary India, he extracts pointed, often bitter comedy — Sunday Times
The writing is exuberant — TLS
Joseph's portrait of these fascinating, flawed human beings is smartly written and consistently entertaining — Irish Times