The God of Small Things – Review
Title: The God of Small Things
Author: Arundhati Roy
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Themes: Love, sexuality, death, religion, politics, communism, family obligation,
the caste system and western infiltration into Indian culture…
Accolades: The Man Booker Prize winner in 1997
I wanted to start my blog by sharing not only my favourite books but also those that have left a lasting impression on me. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy falls into both categories. It is a carefully crafted and intricate novel that I first read for my A-Level English Literature class over a decade ago and, although I didn’t realise it at the time, it seeped into my soul in a way that no other book ever has.
The God of Small Things is an exceptional psychoanalytical novel that explores the lives of Indian dizygotic twins Rahel and Estha. The twins experience a sequence of traumatic childhood events, which inevitably have a huge impact upon them as they grow up. The novel interweaves different time strands, working like a sequence of memories, to piece together what actually happened to them.
“They would grow up grappling with ways of living with what happened. They would try to tell themselves that in terms of geological time it was an insignificant event. Just a blink of the Earth Woman’s eye.”
The novel begins with adult Rahel returning to her childhood home in Ayemenem, India, which has been neglected over the years and childhood memories reawaken. Seamlessly the story shifts from Rahel’s adult perspective back in time to her being a child. I love the parts of the novel written from young Rahel’s perspective as you see life, including unpleasant events such as a funeral, presented through the eyes and understanding of a child. There are some very hard-hitting moments in the book and definitely some very raw elements. There are also contrasting moments full of humour, love and wonderful children’s questions.
“If you’re happy in a dream, does that count?”
The book has a lot of characters beyond the core family. There are characters that you love and others that are truly repulsive. The God of Small Things portrays a variety of complex relationships and characters cross a lot of different lines. The motifs in the novel are beautifully written and one of the most important questions echoes throughout the novel:
“… who should be loved. And how. And how much.”
Arundhati Roy has a very strong authorial voice, the novel is complex, well paced and extremely well written. The vivid imagery Roy uses throughout is second-to-none and after years I can still quote whole sections of the book because it is so potent. The God of Small things is not what I could class as an ‘easy read’ and does require more focus than the usual speculative fiction novel. If you like contemporary fiction, books with a socio-political commentary or are looking for a diverse read from a BAME author then I do not hesitate in recommending The God of Small Things. It is an amazing novel and I hope that you will share your thoughts with me if you decide to pick it up!
– Delly x
“…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.” – Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things