REVIEW The God of Small Things- Arundhati Roy


This book was smaller than I expected, but I couldn’t wait for it to end. It is not a difficult book to read, but the plot was insipid, the characters so lackluster that I didn’t care what happened to them. Roy brings a new dimension to Indian-English writing, but I wished she put as much thought into her plot development as she did into her sentence construction.

God of Small Things is a non-linear narrative about dizygotic non-identical twins, Rahel and Estha, belonging to a pickle-making Christian family of Ayemenem in Kerala. They live with their divorced Ammu in her maternal home, along with their Marxist-loving uncle Chacko, their spinster grand-aunt Baby Kochamma and their violin-playing half-blind grandmother. The great turbulence in their lives begins when Chacko’s ex-wife Margaret Kochamma and her daughter Sophie Mol arrive for a brief visit in Ayemenem, a visit that culminates in Sophie’s death, Ammu’s banishment from the house and the twins’ separation.

The book dealt with a lot of issues: the dominance of the caste system in society, the unbridgeable gap between Touchables and Untouchables, the impact of Communism. It also explores the hollowness in relationships and the animal emotions that lurk behind the respectable façade of most people. Baby Kochamma’s jealousy, with her desire to poison the lives of others and joy in others’ misfortunes, Mammachi’s blindness a symbol of her possessiveness for her son, Comrade Pillai’s hypocrisy, Ammu desperately wishing to be free of her claustrophobic existence. Her portrayal of the caste system and its ramifications on society is both empathic and emphatic; she points out all the hypocrisy in Indian society through the Keralite family which inhabit the pages. Her writing is descriptive, vivid, awesome at times. Sample this:

Centuries telescoped into one evanescent moment. History was wrong-footed, caught off guard. Sloughed off like an old snakeskin. Its marks, its scars, its wounds from old wars and the walking-backwards days all fell away. In its absence it left an aura, a palpable shimmering that was as plain to see as the water in a river or the sun in the sky. As plain to feel as the heat on a hot day, or the rug of a fish on a taut line.

But there were quite a few bits that went straight over my head; parts that made me think this book was more a demonstration of the author’s command over the language than the actual telling of a story. I felt little or no connect with the characters, not even with the twins. Also, I was quite uncomfortable with the obsession with sexuality: every sentence had sexual connotations. Don’t get me wrong, I am not squeamish, I just don’t like the society of perverts that inhabits the pages. And the ending: incest was way too much for me to stomach, I was left with a grossed-out feeling at the end. So, despite Roy’s impeccable writing, this book didn’t work for me.

Read another review at: things mean a lot
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4 Responses
  1. Amanda Says:

    I'm really not sure if I want to read this. I've been on the fence forever despite all the positive reviews. To hear that the whole book is obsessed with sex is a major turnoff for me. Maybe one day I'll give it a try, but I don't think it'll be any time soon.

  2. Elizabeth Says:

    I was very underwhelmed by this book. I'd read rave after rave review, and just felt....meh.

  3. Nymeth Says:

    I'm sorry to hear it! This is one of my all-time favourites.

  4. brizmus Says:

    This is pretty much exactly how I felt about the book as well. Except that I couldn't even get over everything I hated about it enough to notice that her writing might have been awesome. Sometimes, it seemed like what she was writing meant absolutely nothing. it was just an attempt to show off. I like to talk about this book as THE worst book that I have ever read.

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