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“They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved and how. And how much.”

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.

Arundhati Roy-author

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.

35 thoughts on “Book Review: The God of Small Things

  1. Such a powerful book with thought and emotions, reaching deep into the readers heart. “Each character, guilty or innocent is made to pay a bitter of their actions, of small things, small moments they borrowed from life.” In a way, this reminds me of the real word. I wish it goes through for every person who committed an evil did. Sometimes, powerful evil men don’t pay on earth as they should be although we know that in the after life, justice will be given…eternally. Great post as always. Stay blessed…

  2. After a long time am reading a good review! You commend Arundhati bu your language skill is no less “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.”

    I had tried reading this long time back but couldn’t go beyond few pages…as you said its not for everyone. I met Arundhati some years back, she is big time into activism in india and is a very headstrong person!!

    • yes I come across some news about her political views and ideological activism and such on and off, she definitely is quite headstrong as you put. I hope she writes more books!!

  3. Hi hun! :)

    We’re due warm weather and heavy rain for the next few days here and we’ve had a lot of flooding this past week, so believe me you would be welcome! :)

    Hope it cools down for you really soon my friend! :)

    Love and hugs!

    Prenin.

  4. This is a beautifully written review, Habiba. I was put off reading this book when it came out because I was in a place in my life when I didn’t want to read literary fiction, but your review perhaps encourages me to go back to it now.

  5. Very good review. Just could not get round to reading this book as yet, and in fact, most Indians given to reading books would have given this a go-by.
    I am about to finish reading Rushdie’s ” The Moors Last Sigh “, which largely has the same milieu as Arundhati’s book, ( Kerala ) and even though comparing one book with another is just not done, Rushdie’s drips with such style that it actually even has an edge over his own more famous books.
    But again, great review. I have to look around for Arundhati’s book now.

  6. I remember reading this about ten years ago, or more, gasp, and remember it being one of my favorites. Thank you for bringing the characters back to light for me. What I loved about it I think was her use of language and the story too. It was lovely.

    I think I cried at the end.

    Your review was so well written. Just excellent. Thank you.

    Julie

  7. I’ve this book but haven’t read it yet. She’s a damn good writer, there’s no doubt about it and I shall read it very soon. Nice review though. Btw I’m also reading these days and have built my own small library. Would recommend you to read ‘The Glimpses of World History’ and ‘The Discovery of India’ by Jawahar Lal Nehru. These two books have acquired the status of classics and he wrote them while he was in gaol during India’s freedom struggle. A must read for every Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi. Read them if you are a history buff like me. And yeah keep writing such wonderful stuff :-)

  8. I read this book, and was astounded by her writing style. I kept going back over her words…and you’re right, I actually FELT the story. I’m glad you’ve posted about it. It’s a truly deserving recommendation.

  9. Sorry I haven’t been around much lately, but my book, The Bellman Chronicles, will be FREE to download on Sept. 10 – 11! Check it out on my Amazon Kindle page.. You won’t be disappointed. And if you can slip me a review, I’d be forever grateful…

  10. Wow, you know, I don’t think I’d normally pick up this book at a store, but after a review by a blogger it’s different – you know, someone tells it from another angle. Thanks for the review, very interesting.

  11. Great review ! I am going to read this book just because of you and I am sure I would love it :) You have a great blog here ! Keep up the good work :) xx

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