Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

(Photo taken from Wikipedia)

Title: The God of Small Things
Author: Arundhati Roy
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Language: English
ISBN - 10:
ISBN - 13:

The Story According to the Blurb

"The story of the tragic decline of an Indian family whose members suffer the terrible consequences of forbidden love, The God of Small Things is set in the state of Kerala, on the southernmost tip of India. Armed only with the invincible innocence of children, the twins Rahel and Esthappen fashion a childhood for themselves in the shade of the wreck that is their family - their lonely, lovely mother (who loves by night the man her children love by day), their blind grandmother, Mammachi (who plays Handel on her violin), their beloved uncle Chacko (Rhodes scholar, pickle baron, radical Marxist, bottom-pincher), their enemy, Baby Kochamma (ex-nun and incumbent grandaunt), and the ghost of an imperial entomologist's moth (with unusually dense dorsal tufts)."

"When their English cousin and her mother arrive on a Christmas visit, the twins learn that Things Can Change in a Day. That lives can twist into new, ugly shapes, even cease forever..."


Have you ever had a dream in which everything was almost too real, you could not quite believe it when you have to wake up?

That was exactly how I would describe this book. The narration is startlingly vivid, that I can almost say I was with Rahel and Estha the whole time, crossing the river with them, listening to them make plans in the pickle factory, carrying their boat above our heads. Albeit slow, the story builds up to paint a big picture from the seemingly small things that the twins and their family encounter. Every single event is explored, every minute detail a metaphor. The writing draws a fine line between the well-drawn and the verbose. It was like gossiping with housewives - telling you a story in a non-linear way with exhausting description, that you always end up asking them to hurry up already and get to the juicy parts, only realizing that to fully appreciate the punchline, every inch of the story has to be exposed.

But unlike gossiping housewives, the author exhibits finesse and intelligence with the way she dealt with the story. Seen through the eyes of the young two-egg twins, their childish wisdom demonstrates an innocent, but not oversimplified, view of themselves, their family and their home. The author provides a credible portrait of two children amidst familial and social struggles that cause them to grow up unspeaking (Estha) and unfeeling (Rahel).

Each character's personalities are also very well-accounted for, that one can empathize with Ammu's plight, laugh at Chacko's quirks, and loathe Baby Kochamma with alarming intensity. Aided with realistic imagery, not just once did I find myself touching my feet at the mention of Baby Kochamma's edematous ones, disgust at the OrangedrinkLemondrink man; I even found myself singing with Estha while inside the Abhilash Talkies. They were almost real I expected a crowd to shush me when I sang.

From my point of view, this is a rediscovery of the trauma that the twins suffered while growing up, and they remembered it through the small things seemingly insignificant, but grew to be the cornerstone of their pain. The pain that in the self-centeredness of childhood, they claimed to be their doing, but with the passing time and the maturity of their minds, they understood that it was not their fault, and they were given their chance to grieve for their loss. Although some would object at the turn of events in the end, I myself could not complain, especially as I am not the one keeping the 'Love Laws,' "That lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much."


  1. If it's too real to actually make you feel like a character in the novel, then Arundhati Roy is a wonderful author. I don't usually stumble upon stories about twins. Aren't they interesting subjects? Whew, that seriously reminds me of Josef Mengele. (Shudders)

    Anyway, though I'm not a fan of family fic, reviews like this make me want to give it another shot. ^_^ Good review!

  2. She's definitely great! You should give this one a try. I'm glad you liked what I wrote. Hopefully, you'll like the book even better. :D


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