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The God of Small Things Paperback – May 1, 1998

1,174 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

In her first novel, award-winning Indian screenwriter Arundhati Roy conjures a whoosh of wordplay that rises from the pages like a brilliant jazz improvisation. The God of Small Things is nominally the story of young twins Rahel and Estha and the rest of their family, but the book feels like a million stories spinning out indefinitely; it is the product of a genius child-mind that takes everything in and transforms it in an alchemy of poetry. The God of Small Things is at once exotic and familiar to the Western reader, written in an English that's completely new and invigorated by the Asian Indian influences of culture and language. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

With sensuous prose, a dreamlike style infused with breathtakingly beautiful images and keen insight into human nature, Roy's debut novel charts fresh territory in the genre of magical, prismatic literature. Set in Kerala, India, during the late 1960s when Communism rattled the age-old caste system, the story begins with the funeral of young Sophie Mol, the cousin of the novel's protagonists, Rahel and her fraternal twin brother, Estha. In a circuitous and suspenseful narrative, Roy reveals the family tensions that led to the twins' behavior on the fateful night that Sophie drowned. Beneath the drama of a family tragedy lies a background of local politics, social taboos and the tide of history?all of which come together in a slip of fate, after which a family is irreparably shattered. Roy captures the children's candid observations but clouded understanding of adults' complex emotional lives. Rahel notices that "at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. The Big Things lurk unsaid inside." Plangent with a sad wisdom, the children's view is never oversimplified, and the adult characters reveal their frailties?and in one case, a repulsively evil power?in subtle and complex ways. While Roy's powers of description are formidable, she sometimes succumbs to overwriting, forcing every minute detail to symbolize something bigger, and the pace of the story slows. But these lapses are few, and her powers coalesce magnificently in the book's second half. Roy's clarity of vision is remarkable, her voice original, her story beautifully constructed and masterfully told. First serial to Granta; foreign rights sold in France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Holland, India, Greece, Canada and the U.K.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (May 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060977493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060977498
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,174 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #563,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Arundhati Roy was born in 1959 in Shillong, India. She studied architecture in New Delhi, where she now lives. She has worked as a film designer and screenplay writer in India. Roy is the author of the novel The God of Small Things, for which she received the 1997 Booker Prize. The novel has been translated into dozens of languages worldwide. She has written several non-fiction books, including The Cost of Living, Power Politics, War Talk, An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire, and Public Power in the Age of Empire. Roy was featured in the BBC television documentary Dam/age, which is about the struggle against big dams in India. A collection of interviews with Arundhati Roy by David Barsamian was published as The Checkbook and the Cruise Missile. She is a contributor to the Verso anthology Kashmir: The Case for Freedom. Her newest books are Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers and Capitalism: A Ghost Story, published by Haymarket Books, and Walking with the Comrades, published by Penguin. Roy is the recipient of the 2002 Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Prize.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

120 of 130 people found the following review helpful By Claire Harrison on December 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
"May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month," and so is Arundhati Roy's novel The God of Small Things. Imagine a cold piece of butter slowly melting in a frying pan, setting the scene for the cooking to come, and you can see the way Roy's prose works. Words that are hot and brooding reel you into an intricate web of family politics and social mores, evoking a feeling similar to a written stream of consciencness. Roy writes in layers, except that the layers are both added and taken off; I was reminded of my childhood when I would eat wafer chocolates from the bottom and the top, leaving the middle until last, because that was the best part. Roy kindly dispells the, often torturous, anxiety of what happens in the end early on in the book. The reader is told what happened before it happened, what happened after it happened, and saves what happened for last. A format that seemingly would put off a reader becomes its most appreciated quality. This book is for everyone; murder mystery, love story, epic saga all in one. Even if you're not the romantic type, the social scrutiny of Indian customs provides for interesting reading. However, if you're interested in brain candy, forget it. There is too much to absorb. Emotion and intellect are needed in order to understand the emotion and intellect that are related. You could take in only what is superficially presented, as the plot alone is worthwhile, but you would be missing so much. Rahel, a dizygotic twin returns to the place of her childhood and subesequently a place of unhappiness to see her brother, the other twin, after more than twenty years of separation. Esta, the brother, has stopped talking, and Rahel has stopped feeling. Their reunion allows for the remembrance and grieving of their disasterous youths.Read more ›
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Stephen R. Laniel on March 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
Don't let this book's packaging fool you: it is poetry. It is just over 300 pages of poetry, meant to be read aloud, set down, thought about, slept on, read aloud some more, and thought about some more. And when you're done reading it, you should set it down, think about it, and reread it.

No one part of The God Of Small Things can be understood without understanding the rest of it, but perhaps a chunk from the beginning of the book will reveal some of its beauty and form. Read it aloud if you'd like; that's probably the best way to appreciate it. The quote is this:

"Their lives have a size and a shape now. Estha has his and Rahel hers. Edges, Borders, Boundaries, Brinks and Limits have appeared like a team of trolls on their separate horizons. Short creatures with long shadows, patrolling the Blurry End. Gentle half-moons have gathered under their eyes and they are as old as Ammu was when she died. Thirty-one.
Not old.
Not young.
But a viable die-able age."

That quote is particularly apt, revealing as it does the poetic tragedy of the book. There is very little that is uplifting about The God Of Small Things, because nearly every image is surrounded by the knowledge -- which Ms. Roy plainly lays out early on -- that tragedy will befall the characters soon. As readers, we approach the tragedy with mounting horror, followed by something like resignation, followed by deep loss.

The tragedies of this book are the tragedies of caste, of childhood lost, and of love destroyed. Outwardly, the book is the story of two twins and the broken lives that their childhoods yielded.
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80 of 87 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
What is the God of Small Things? Small things are what we talk about when the big things are too difficult and too overwhelming. This book is the story of the childhood of non-fraternal twins, Rahel & Estha - a girl and a boy, family, forbidden lovers, politics, and tradition. Ammu is the twins' mother; a woman of a priviledged family who married, then divorced her twins' alcoholic father. Baby Kochamma is their manipulative spinster aunt who pines for a priest she met as a young girl. Sophie Mol is a visting Indian/English cousin who meets her end soon after arriving. The story progresses, in a backwards and forwards manner, telling the tale(s) that ended their childhoods. The children, utimately become pawns in the cruel "history" being played out by the adults around them. We often see the result of the action, before we know what occurred; a complex puzzle unfolding. This story encorporates issues of human relationships, the complicated emotions and repurcussions of the caste system, brutality, and the ability to survive. Holding together the microcosms of the many "small" stories within this story is Roy's use of language. The silly rhymes of the children, their imaginative nicknames for adults, and their view of the love and cruelty of adults, and the interpretation of the world on their terms, creates a framework for this story. The use of "non-standard" English is widely used, which some reviews seem to believe is unintentional. For instance, verbs are sometimes capitalized in order to emphasize the inevitability, the concrete-ness, of the action. Sentances are often framented in order to express a thought, especially a child's thought. (I certainly don't think in complete, grammatical sentances myself). It's really quite beautifully written.Read more ›
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