My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
About the Author:
Suzanna Arundhati Roy (born 24 November 1961) is an Indian author best known for her novel The God of Small Things (1997), which won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997 and became the biggest-selling book by a non-expatriate Indian author. She is also a political activist involved in human rights and environmental causes.
Publication Year: 1997
‘The God of Small Things’ is one of those novels I’ve mixed opinions about. To be honest, it was a little difficult to get through this book but in the end, it was really worth it! It revolves around the life of Ipe family living in the beautiful village of Ayemenem in Kerala. It begins when the twins Rahel and Estha are reunited in Ayemenem. The story switches back and forth between two different timelines beginning in 1993 and going all the way in the past when they were 7 years old.
Both of them are still haunted by an incident that happened long ago. The narrative then switches to the 1960’s, when the twins were younger, where we learn about the things that led up to the tragic event that changed their lives in a major way. Through the switching narratives, we learn about the background of the Ipe family and things from their perspective. We also learn about the cultural and political climate of Kerala in the past.
First of all, I found the writing in this book absolutely enchanting and poignant in a very subtle way. I liked how the picturesque landscape of the village was described in minute details, even the minor details of objects were put in there, which was fascinating. The backstories of the people were told concisely which managed to capture the essence of the characters. The book has this kind of gloomy ambiance and a lot of foreshadowing is done which makes you want to keep on reading.
However, I had a bit of trouble following the events as the timelines just switch abruptly and the writing in the book feels too obscure sometimes. I mean I took my time reading the book, but there were many times I wanted to just give up. But I’m glad I didn’t do that as this is the kind of book that sticks with you for a long time. I think that’s the beauty of it, the language is so peculiar and heart-rending. The book talks about the loss of innocence and the ‘Love Laws’ that govern who should be loved, how and how much. The pain and the suffering of the people really broke my heart.
“…the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. 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. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again. That is their mystery and their magic.”
The book talks about the political climate of Kerala in the ’60s where there was a rise of communism and the caste system was already banned by the law. But socially, it was still prevalent as the oppressive system was somehow so embedded in people’s mind that it was impossible to get rid of the prejudice that people felt. The Untouchables were still unacceptable and expendable. This mentality made the innocent people born in a different cast into victims of their own fate. It’s sad to see that this is something that still exists in India, not in a major way but that mindset definitely isn’t gone socially. We also see the unfair treatment that the women received in society.
Towards the end of the book, an event takes place that can be called controversial. I don’t want to give too much away but I think the topic was handled very well. I was able to understand the situation and the misery of the people. Also, we see that no matter how messed up the Big Things are, the Small Things are the ones that really matter in the grand scheme of things, the things that keep you going; but maybe those Small Things can also eventually add up to create a huge impact over the lives of people. This book really made me feel the loss and grief that the characters felt.
All in all, it’s a great book that shows the ugly face of society. It has a really pretty cover and I’d love to re-read again after I forget the plot! I was amazed to know that this book was the author’s debut novel and she won an award for that. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re a patient reader. Otherwise, it’s a fine book worth reading.