Arundhati Roy’s debut novel is a work of art. You might find it hard to make your way through her unsaturated prose, allusions, and metaphors at first but once you get acquainted, you will feel lost in her dreamy world. Roy’s mastery is unsurpassed. Published in 1997 and winner of Man Booker Prize, The God of Small Things is a classic tale of forbidden love, social class, family, and beyond.
Set in Kerala in the late 1960s, The God of Small Things takes into account the life of twins, Esthappen and Rahel. They live with their mother Ammu, now divorced and clearly broken. Other members of the family include their grandmother Mammachi, uncle Chacko who is a Rhodes Scholar, and divorced as well. Mammachi’s sister-in-law, Baby Kochamma despises Ammu and her children and leaves no stone unturned to make their life miserable.
Though the story begins with Esthappen and Rahel as it proceeds, it reveals several dark and gory undertones to the seemingly innocent story. Traveling back and forth in time, Roy reveals unexpected twists in The God of Small Things leading up to unfortunate events in the past.
The theme of Family and Social Obligation
The theme of family is evident in the book with a large family living at ease in Cochin. Both of Mammachi’s children, Chacko and Ammu suffer failed marriages and live a sad life. Chacko is determined to be a father figure in the life of Estha and Rahel but his inclination towards his biological daughter Sophie Mol is evident when she returns from England. Chacko is the head of the house since Mammachi is blind and weak. Baby Kochamma, a failure in life both personally and professionally, tries her best to spew venom in their lives.
The family wealthy and prosperous at first leads itself towards its end, particularly by self-destruction. Being a family of high status in society, it is obliged to follow certain norms to be able to hold its reputation. But it fails to do so and we tend to know numerous secrets that a seemingly perfect family hides from the eyes of the world. With two failed marriages and lost honor, The God of Small Things is a story of the small and big things that matter. Narrated through the innocent eyes of seven-year-old Rahel, this story will keep you hooked till the end.
Mastery of Roy’s Writing
Writing as a novelist for the first time, Arundhati Roy enhances the language to make it her own. She makes use of extensive metaphors and similes which add charm to the prose making it dream-like. The flow of words is beautiful and very natural. Roy’s prose is the most effortless type of writing that I have ever read. Her capability to turn every other phrase into a metaphor or personification is limitless and quite impressive.
The God of Small Things is set in the backdrop of Kerala, known for its magnificent vegetation and sprawling water. It is a tropical paradise in Southern India. But Roy not only describes the beauty of Kerala through its surroundings but in every other sense. You will feel as if you have seen the whole of Kerala through her eyes, breathed in the freshly damp air, and tasted its essence. The detailing of the language is such that it will leave you in awe of her writing skills.
The nuances and intricacies of her writing style will leave you asking for more. Due to her unsurpassed ability to write, it is fair to keep her book alongside that of Rushdie and Marquez.
Quotes from the book
“ And the air was full of Thoughts and Things to Say. But at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. Big Things lurk unsaid inside.”
“This was the trouble with families. Like invidious doctors, they knew just where it hurt.”
“She knew who he was – the God of Loss, the God of Small Things. Of course she did.’’
“Both she and he knew that there are things that can be forgotten. And things that cannot–that sit on dusty shelves like stuffed birds with baleful, sideways-staring eyes.”
The God of Small Things touches a variety of aspects including social class, conflicts between Christianity, post-colonialism, and so on. Roy knits a compelling story with multi-layered characters. The story is heartbreaking and even tough sometimes but Roy’s brilliant storytelling makes it worth it. Arundhati Roy builds up the suspense and intrigues the readers from the very first page of the novel. Some facts can be foreshadowing at first and hence, re-reading makes it very clear to the readers. A book like The God of Small Things can be read over and over again with the same amount of enthusiasm.
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