“Arundhati Roy’s only novel, The God of Small Things, was the final novel I taught for this school year, and I finished it just a hair before the students. That is Very Bad and I Do Not Recommend It. However, sometimes, it’s all you can do to stay afloat. So of course, I knew how things would shake out, and I didn’t get to see the story unfold naturally, as I would have if I had read it for pleasure. The fact is, I am not sure I would have picked up this book to read for pleasure, and how sad that would have been. It’s a beautiful book.
One of the things folks probably say too much about this novel is that its style is reminiscent of William Faulkner’s, and it truly is. He is a favorite of mine. When I taught the novel, I urged my students to be patient. This novel is like a puzzle. You know how you put it together, and you don’t have the whole picture until you get to the end? But there is a point when you can see how it is going to come out, and you realize what it is you are putting together? That is what this book is: It begins in the middle, and the beginning is somewhere in the middle. The end is in the middle, and the middle is at the end. The nonlinear narrative may pose a challenge for some readers, but it is a worthy one.
To start with, the description of Ayemenem in Kerala, India, is absolutely gorgeous. The green trees drip with fruit and the buzzing and whirring of birds and insects fills the air. The river, the deceptively quiet river Kuttappen describes as looking like “a little old churchgoing ammooma, quiet and clean,” but is “[r]eally a wild thing” (201), as the children learn from personal experience. It seems you can always tell when an author has truly inhabited a place she writes about because the description is so vivid that you inhabit it, too, for the time while you read the book.
I admit the narrative made it difficult to follow and put events in their proper place. A timeline, added to as the reader fills in details, would not go amiss. It will take some time to fall into the flow of the nonlinear narrative. Give this one a little longer than you ordinarily might give a book before giving up on it.
In terms of characters, I found myself fascinated by Ammu, the mother of twins Rahel (from whose point of view most of the novel is told) and Estha. Her choices fascinated me. One minute I found myself empathizing with her, and the next, I hated her. Her aunt, Baby Kochamma, was also a fascinating character. She is a master manipulator the likes of which you rarely see, but she, too, has a kind of tragedy at her core, even if it is of her own device, that provokes pity.
I have to recommend this book highly, most highly to those who enjoy Faulkner and who like to read about exotic locales. If you are not either of those, give it a chance anyway. It’s quite well written—gorgeous, lush prose in the English that for some reason, only Indians can write (I have no idea why that is). Aside from that, it tells the moving story of the destruction and decay of a family because things can change in day.”
“A good love book and its realistic fiction.”danielle wrote this review 2 weeks ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I loved the author's craft in this book. She lets out the story a bit at a time while really keeping you interested. Her descriptions are amazing -- some of the most original writing I've seen in a long time. Her vocabulary blew me away. I learned words I'd never heard of before! I really enjoyed this book... until about the last 10 pages. All I can say is yuck. With a better ending I could have given this five stars, but as it is I have to give it three.”Mrs. Spence wrote this review 2 weeks ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Pure genius.”Jaws Jr wrote this review 2 weeks ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Wonderful and unique writing style
“Las familias normalmente disfuncionales son lo mismo aquí que en la India. Al menos así lo muestra la novela de Arundhati Roy: “El dios de las pequeñas cosas”. Esta historia muestra un drama familiar como cualquier otro, ambientado en la India contemporánea, donde las ideas revolucionarias y modernas entran en la solida base social; haciendo una pequeña incisión en el problema de castas e igualdad femenina. Una sociedad donde la mujer no tiene voz, no tiene importancia si no es por el marido que la respalda o le da un lugar. En medio de esta vorágine de ideas preconcebidas, dos gemelos sufren una infancia, al lado de su madre que ha abandonado a su padre por borracho y golpeador; “¿Cómo es posible que abandone a su marido?”, diría la abuela, alentada por una tía abuela solterona y amargada, cuyo ingenio se demuestra en el sin fin de fechorías que realiza pensando en el buen comportamiento que la sociedad exige. La familia entera sufre una serie de acontecimientos que deja a los gemelos marcados para toda su vida.
Arundhati comienza en el ahora, con Rahel y Estha, los gemelos, en sus 30s, regresando a la casa donde ocurrió el Terror, el gran suceso que los marco para siempre. Aún vive la tía abuela, aquella persona amargada y solterona por haberse enamorado de un sacerdote católico que extrañamente, no pensaba romper los votos de castidad. Recuerdan cada momento que los llevo a punto culminante de sus vidas, aquella infancia donde los visitó su prima de Inglaterra, y donde el río indómito y salvaje, arrebato y destruyó más de una vida. La narración salta entre los recuerdos, en un espiral que nos lleva al punto culminante donde todo cambio; donde ocurrió el instante decisivo que forjo esta historia, y como en todo momento, hubo una probabilidad de decidir, de cambiarlo, de no aventurarse más allá: el precio de una vida. Aunque por ella, por un instante a su lado, al igual que el paravan, bien valdría la pena arríesgarse.
Una novela bastante gráfica, descriptiva en detalles que permiten al lector visitar los parajes, las situaciones, aquellas ciudades bañadas por el calor selvático. Agobiado por las costumbres y por los comportamientos, uno puede sorprenderse de esa forma de vida, tan distinta y al mismo tiempo semejante a nuestra sociedad machista. (Si en Schenectady confunden al de Ixquimilpan con el de Ayemenem; con esta novela le damos la razón). ”
“I had started reading this when it first came out but wasn't that into it. I'm so glad I kept it because it is a beautiful, albeit tragic, story. I found the language so beautiful as to be somewhat overwrought, initially, but its intensity lessens and does ultimately fit with the book.”Vanessa S wrote this review 3 weeks ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Another great writer, and with a message. What is it about Benghali writers and poets, that they can touch our hearts? ”dragonraj wrote this review 3 weeks ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“The core theme of this debut novel is surprisingly relevant - the punishment that is visited upon those who tamper with the "laws that lay down who should be loved and how...and how much". Crossing into such territory, forbidden by the power coalitions in politics, tribalism / nationalism, privilege/wealth and religion, is a place where "anything can happen to anyone" and "it is best to be prepared". Set within the caste system in India, the Touchable class can be seen as a metaphor for cultures beyond India, where similar elites impose discrimination that preserves the rigidities of the status quo. And so, not only the banality of evil / injustice, but the sober, steady, brutality of blind bureaucracy. And the inevitability of violence - physical and psychological. The story unfolds like memory - in themes rather than chronologically, and puts demands on the reader to pay close attention, in many ways, like poetry. The twins Rahel & Estha pay attention to the small things such as small creatures and their activities-the "whisper and scurry of small lives"-as well as secrets, promises, sins, and other emotional 'creatures' that people do not want to acknowledge. The "Big Things" are such as the caste system, political affiliations, and marriage. The twins seek refuge in dark, secret places like the river and the History House, or the hearts of those willing to nurture and protect them. T here are several striking metaphors. For instance, the Moth: when Rahel's mother responds to her child's sharp words with "careless words cause people to love each other less", Rahel's fear of her mother's rejection is felt as "the icy feeling of Pappachi's moth's legs and wings upon her heart" : "A cold moth with unusually dense dorsal tufts landed lightly on Rahel's heart. Where its icy legs touched her, she got goosebumps. Six goosebumps on her careless heart. A little less her Ammu loved her." These careless words of her mother are compounded by the sending way of her twin,Estha, and further compounded by his Return and Rereturn (capitals are a feature of this extraordinary writing) - these are examples of "terrible things that never go away" and that have "its history smell, presaging today's thud". When Rahel feels more secure and more loved, the moth tends to let go of her heart a little bit and there are intense brief interludes of internal happiness, gratitude, wonderment and love where she learns to take what she can get and not expect it to continue. There is a much more to this book than the story that moves from "when Everything was Forever" to when "Things can change in a day". ”Kevin K. Conroy wrote this review Thursday, April 18, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No