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The God of Small Things – Book Review

The God of Loss. The God of Small Things. He left no footprints in sand, no ripples in water, no image in mirrors. -From The God of Small Things, page 250-

Arundhati Roy’s first novel, The God Of Small Things, is a dazzling masterpiece of language. Roy constructs the story around one central theme: Things can change in a day. Set in a small town in the state of Kerala, India – the novel shifts back and forth from present day to the past – building to a sudden and terrible end with suspense drenched in original
language.

The novel centers around two twins – Rahel and Estha – and their mother, Ammu. Living with Ammu’s extended family, the twins witness the unfolding of a drama which begins with the arrival of their young cousin from England, Sopie Mol. Relationships are gradually revealed, and the innocence of childhood becomes bared to the realities of adulthood. Although the reader is told the ending, this serves to create tension as Roy spirals backward and forward in time, constructing the pieces while uncovering the truth inch by inch. The reader’s heart will bleed for little Estha with his pointy shoes and Elvis puff, who occupies “very little space in the world.”

Roy explores the prohibition of love between castes, and the violence of the fledgling Communist movement – both topics which made this novel controversial in India.


The man standing in the shade of the rubber trees with coins of sunshine dancing on his body, holding her daughter in his arms, glanced up and caught Ammu’s gaze. Centuries telescoped into one evanescent moment. History was wrong-footed, caught off guard. Sloughed off like an old snakeskin. Its marks, its scars, its wounds from old wars and the walking-backwards days all fell away.
-From The God Of Small Things, page 168-

Despite its difficult subject matter (or maybe because of it), Roy won the prestigious Booker Prize in 1997 for this novel. With an artist’s ability to construct scene, Roy immerses the reader in the novel:

She had forgotten just how damp the monsoon air in Ayemenem could be. Swollen cupboards creaked. Locked windows burst open. Books got soft and wavy between their covers. Strange insects appeared like ideas in the evenings and burned themselves on Baby Kochamma’s dim forty-watt bulbs. In the daytime their crisp, incinerated corpses littered the floor and windowsills, and until Kochu Maria swept them away in her plastic dustpan, the air smelled of Something Burning. -From The God of Small Things, page 11-

Highly recommended.

11 Comments

  1. Anonymous Anonymous
    September 30, 2007    

    I already commented on this over at The Complete Booker
    I know you’ve been through a tough time with your blog, but I still wish Blogharbor could straighten out their RSS feeds. I’ve received this review from TypePad and Blogger, but not from Blogharbor (yet). UGH!
    Keeping fingers crossed that Blogharbor gets their act together for you …

  2. Anonymous Anonymous
    September 30, 2007    

    I don’t think it a problem with Blogharbor as much as it is a problem with Bloglines. They used to read my feed just fine…so I don’t know what happened. I’ve emailed Blogharbor and they are working on it, but not getting much response to Bloglines. You have Google Reader, right? I wonder if they use the same software. It is frustrating…

  3. Anonymous Anonymous
    September 30, 2007    

    Yes Wendy, I use Google Reader. I guess because it was affecting both Bloglines and Google Reader, I assumed the problem was with Blogharbor. In any case, I do hope it gets straightened out!

  4. Anonymous Anonymous
    October 2, 2007    

    Hi again Wendy, just thought I’d let you know that this turned up in Google Reader on 10/1, late evening eastern time …

  5. Anonymous Anonymous
    October 2, 2007    

    Well, that gives me some hope that they might be working on fixing things. Better late than never, right? I emailed BlogLines and they have yet to respond to me; BlogHarbor also emailed them, and they haven’t responded to them either. I’d like to know if the problem is on their end or this end – and how we can fix it. I tend to think the problem is with them because nothing has been changed HERE, and yet they suddenly stopped being able to read the feed.

  6. Anonymous Anonymous
    February 27, 2008    

    It was a pretty good read. But I thought it could be even more gripping by not revealing the outcome at the beginning.
    Mystic Wanderer

  7. Anonymous Anonymous
    February 27, 2008    

    Mystic Wanderer: I didn’t find the foreshadowing a distraction – in some ways, this technique can add to the tension because the reader begins dreading the eventual outcome (Markus Zusak did this brilliantly in The Book Thief)…but I know you are not the only reader who didn’t like this part of the book.

  8. August 24, 2008    

    Yes, my heart definitely went out to little Estha. I just wanted to hug him and little Rahel!

  9. August 24, 2008    

    Laura: *nods* which is one reason I gave this book such a high rating – when I can feel for characters like that…the writing must be terrific!

  10. October 17, 2008    

    the story really took me aside i preffered candles to read coz i cant see the ligth and walls watching me cry for estha

  11. October 18, 2008    

    Arif: I agree – very hard to read about Esthme

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