The God of Small Things is the first book by the author Arundhati Roy written in 1997. Arundhati is among the few authors who get to achieve the highest recognition with their first book itself which otherwise many authors slog throughout their life to get it. The book went on to win the prestigious Man Booker prize in the same year.
After writing her first book Arundhati took nearly 20 years to write another book The Ministry of Utmost Happiness which was published recently. Surprisingly, even I waited for 20 years to read her first book. And after reading the book I am glad that I waited for so long to get my hands on it. Readers need to have a certain level of maturity to actually understand and enjoy the book.
The story is about Rahel and Estha who are kind of distressed and depressed twins who are just breathing for life but not living the life. Desire to live the life has sucked out of them. Estha is shown as deadly silent, and Rahel carries a bleak look in her eyes. As young children they were like any other kids full of life and energy but one fateful incident destroyed their being completely.
So what exactly transpired is a mystery which author has cruelly and craftily kept it wrapped till the climax, just dropping hints here and there which were not enough to form a whole picture.
Touching quotes from the book
“Do you know what happens when you hurt people? ” Ammu said.” When you hurt people they begin to love you less. That’s what careless words do. They make people love you little less”.
Weird Style of Narrative
Now earlier I said that certain level of maturity is necessary to appreciate the novel. This is because the bizarre style in which the novel was written and some controversial scenes. It is written like hairs on the head of the author untamed, uncombed, unruly, flowing randomly all over her face. Well please pardon me for my insensitivity but I can’t think of any other way to describe her writing style.
For more than first half of the book she wrote the story in between the description. She kept on and on describing surrounding, people, atmosphere and what not. Every minutest details were given so that readers can close their eyes and visualise the entire scenario. Though I hate to admit but description were stunningly beautiful and close to reality.
It was frustrating to read the main story in between description, in bits and pieces. Moreover the author didn’t follow any chronological order. She wrote all the scenes and episodes everything randomly without any sequence. The narrative jumped from past to present without any clear demarcation and the book moved at a snail pace.
It is only a little before ending the book that our dear author decided to stop hitting the bushes and come straight to tie the loose ends. The narrative gathered pace and story flows seamlessly at a top speed just like waves of the sea revealing all the suspense while returning to shores. The book simply becomes unputdownable once the author decides to lift the veil from the suspense.
If I just keep aside her technique of writing, then author’s power of expression is phenomenal. She can describe anything and everything with such accuracy that it feels like witnessing the events ourselves. Characters inner turmoil, their hidden and suppressed desires, innocence of children, insecurity among children were heart touching.
Touching Quotes from the book
“Some punishment were so big that they were like cupboards with built-in bedrooms. You could spend your whole life in them wondering through dark shelving.”
Character development was remarkable. Each and every character was given enough space to express and evolve. Every character had a story, mostly tragic story, to reveal. Character were spawned very close to reality. Their mentality, reactions to situations are believeable.
The twins Rahel and Estha were the protagonist. They were soul mate to each other but were very different in nature. While Rahel was someone who is always in denial mood. She form her owns facts in order to deny the truth. While Estha was more practical and rational. In fact I believe if both were not separated they could have managed to tide over any difficulty.
But one thing I failed to understand. Marriages are consummated by sex, but this world which is created by Arundhati Roy even sibling consummated their relationship with sex. I need an explanation here.
Among all the characters Velutha’s character was most intriguing. He belongs to untouchable caste yet he is more smarter and intelligent then any educated and qualified touchables.
Yet India being India doesn’t allow people of lower caste to rise up the ladder and the value of their life is equal to cockroaches and ants who could be trampled anytime. He was loved by twins and their mother, rather secretly, yet their love got him killed and denied justice. Political parties disown him when he was in trouble but tried to capitalize on his death.
Through various characters and specially through Velutha’s character the author has tried to show bigotry, social prejudice, caste differences in our society. He is the most purest character in the story but with the most tragic and unfair ending. Even in death he was made a scapegoat to save others skin after all he was a mere dalit, an untouchable whose life has little value in the eye of touchable.
Arundhati Roy in the most unapologetic manner has portrayed the communism, caste system and social indifference in the society of Kerala which is the most literate state of India.
Arundhati Roy has broken two societal establish norms in the novel: no sex between sibling and no sex between touchable and untouchables. Second one is still acceptable with an open mind but Incest is universal taboo and is difficult to digest Estha and Rahel sexual intimacy. I am sure it was not out of lust but purely was their way to join two halves of the same soul. In spite of this explanation author could have thought of some other way to establish their reunion.
It is a sad tale of twins, their mother and about a person whom they all loved. If one could survive the near perfect description of author then a fantastic but controversial written tale awaits you. There could be a lot of confusion and chaos in the book largely due to the chosen
hurly-burly style of writing but things start making sense when everything started falling in place.
For me personally it is difficult to like or hate the book. Period.