The God of Small Things Review

Title: The God of Small Things
Author: Arundhati Roy
Genre: Magical Realism, Fiction
Publisher: Random House

Blurb: The year is 1969. In the state of Kerala, on the southernmost tip of India, fraternal twins Esthappen and Rahel fashion a childhood for themselves in the shade of the wreck that is their family. Their lonely, lovely mother, Ammu, (who loves by night the man her children love by day), fled an abusive marriage to live with their blind grandmother, Mammachi (who plays Handel on her violin), their beloved uncle Chacko (Rhodes scholar, pickle baron, radical Marxist, bottom-pincher), and their enemy, Baby Kochamma (ex-nun and incumbent grandaunt). When Chacko's English ex-wife brings their daughter for a Christmas visit, the twins learn that things can change in a day, that lives can twist into new, ugly shapes, even cease forever, beside their river...

Me: Still so thankful I got to read this in a high school English class. Refreshing and heartbreaking. It breaks the boundaries of the novel again and again.

The Ups: The most unique aspect about this book is its impeccable (literally, perfect) organization. The story isn't told in a linear form, and time continues to jump around without explanation or preparation. Most of the time though, the story is either in the "present," where Rahel and Estha are now adults back in Ayemenem, or in the "past," where they are nine-year-old twins, and their English cousin Sophie Mol has come to visit.

Roy is incredible in navigating those different times in a way that shows the shattered lives of the family after the visit from Sophie Mol right next to the innocence of their life before. The different time sequences present the fascinating inverted storyline, where we know what happens in the end from the very beginning, yet because we don't know why, we keep reading.

There is so much sadness in this book, yet also so much beauty and hope. Each moment is placed in contrast to the emotions around it, and it paints a picture of the true complexity of human feeling. 

The characters are also stunningly complex. It's remarkable because in the novel, there doesn't seem to be a single wholly likeable character, except for perhaps Velutha, the God of Small Things himself. They are all incredibly flawed, some mortally so. Yet one can't help but think their flaws aren't inherent but rather a product of the horrible things that have happened to them. We sympathize with Rahel and Estha at every stage of their life from childhood to adulthood. 

My favorite part has to be the ending - it breaks your heart so slowly you almost don't even notice until tears start falling. To make it more enigmatic, I left the book not knowing if the characters would ever recover. There isn't really a catharsis for their pain. Yet their courage and vibrancy make you want to believe that they will flourish, that they will find some sort of healing. 

The Downs: The writing style is something incredibly fresh and unique about this book. Roy takes all liberty with creating her own words, capitalizing objects, getting rid of spaces, etc. All the while, the imagery is still so vibrant and detailed. I definitely really enjoyed most of it, and if not enjoyed it, admired it for the novelty.

But like a lot of my classmates said when discussing the book, the writing could seem over-done, almost annoying, at times. Sometimes the details seemed just absurd and unnecessary. 

Overall: A stunning, incredibly organized story with beautiful characters. Just the writing style may hinder the story at times.

Rating: 5 kisses! 


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