Arundhati Roy’s bestseller hit The God of Small Things revolves around the story of a household in Ayemenem (Kerala province, southwest India) where certain events mark their lives still for eternity. Poignant emotions, untold sorrows and shadowy secrets are echoed from each dimension of the story; the characters, the incidents and the tides of fate.
The prime characters of this novel are the two twins, whose lives unanimously are trapped in infinitely spiral depths of a murky past. Children of a divorced mother (Ammu), raised in a considerably well-heeled family, they bud through their childhood year as one rather than two individuals. “Together as we and separately as we or us” is Roy’s strikingly beautiful style of elucidating their complex chemistry.
Mammachi, the twins’ blind grandmother could possibly see just two things: the Paradise Pickles and Preserves factory that she founded, and her only love-her son Chacko. Baby Kochamma is Rahel and Estha’s vinegar hearted grandaunt who has deep rooted bitterness for a life span of unrequited love. The coldness of her heartache translates into fierce vengeance for anything that resonated with feelings or emotions. Chacko runs her mother’s pickle factory. He was divorced from his English wife who took away the daughter’s custody. A fact that couldn’t fade down the love he had for his wife nor could erase the longing he had for his daughter Sophie Mol. The twins’ mother Ammu’s life is stained with a turbulent past, from a ruthless father to an abusive alcoholic husband; hers now was a small quiet universe with embedded turmoil. And no dreams.
The pages slowing divulge the stagnant past, a death, the grief of which only amplified with time, the devastating way it sent tumultuous ripples in the once quite ocean. Ammu’s illicit love; an outrageous defiance to the centuries old law, the relationship of a touchable with an untouchable. Velutha, the man “she loved by night whom her kids loved by day”.
Each character, guilty or innocent is made to pay a bitter of their actions, of small things, small moments they borrowed from life. The vicious circle of unfortunate events clouds down their lives in a malicious shadow forever. Only to be consumed by silence. Dark, unforgiving, noisy silence.
The beauty of this book does not lie in the story, but the supremacy with which emotions are carved out on paper. Roy relates stupendous writing to classical dance, “The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t.” Her book is a vivid reflection of this very premise.
From literary point of view, an important aspect of this book is Roy’s daring use of language, the liberal verbosity of this book is often criticized. Certain phrase are repeated, playfully fixated or broken and set in a rhythm giving an altogether unique meaning-as intended by Roy to induce certain implications. Like a magician who took command of linguistics and gemmed words in a symphony that despite being alien are comprehensible. The purpose of this is to enable the readers to perceive the stream of thoughts from a child’s mind. A skillful independent play of words, that coveys the message efficiently however killing language rules in the way. This for some like me is a delightful spin.
The book however may not capture all types of readers. It has more of a thematic, philosophical spine that aims at exploring the hidden complexities of life rather than a twist full thrilling narration of events. Its soul lies in its tranquil depths, where silence speaks the tale of the untold.
A proud winner of The Booker Prize, this book is supposed to be felt than read.