on December 12, 2011
Note: You should read the real book, before reading this critique, to get the most out of it!
Fearless author Arundhati Roy's first and only novel to date, The God of Small Things is a critically acclaimed best seller and winner of the prestigious Booker Prize award. The book, published in 1997, is well worth the hype. Not only is it a literary delight in terms of the construction of the plot, the richness of the prose and the mastery with which Roy illustrates imagery; the several underlying themes in the fairly straightforward plot paint a vivid and brutally accurate picture of the political and social issues in modern India. The following is a review of the actual novel by Arundhati Roy:
The book focuses on a Syrian-Christian family living in the village of Ayemenam in the state of Kerala. The plot unfolds quite smoothly and skillfully in a non-sequential style, as the story is written primarily through the eyes of the protagonist, Rahel, alternating between timeframes as a 7 year old girl in 1969 and a 31 year old woman in 1993. Whilst narrating the story as seven year old Rahel, Arundhati Roy acutely portrays innocence and imagination that can only belong to a child. This particular quality makes the novel a delightful and wholly entertaining read, and gives a `To Kill A Mockingbird' -esque feel to it. As a child, our protagonist Rahel lives with her twin brother Estha, mother `Ammu', grand-aunt `Baby Kochamma', maternal grandmother `Mammachi', uncle Chacko, and maid Kochu Maria. The family runs a pickle factory, `Paradise Pickles and Preserves' in Ayemenam. They live in a time when communist parties have gained a foothold in the state of Kerala, and certainly in their village. One of the communist party members (and employee in their Pickle factory) is Velutha, an Untouchable (`Paravan' in the native language, Malayalam), who the twins love and adore, despite Baby Kochamma severely resenting him for having privileges that should rightfully be denied for Untouchables. A large part of the novel involves the family anticipating the arrival of uncle Chacko's ex-wife, Margaret, and his daughter "Sophie Mol" (`mol' being `girl' in Malayalam) from London. Sophie Mol's untimely death shortly after her arrival coincides with the climax of the novel, and leads to turmoil in the twins' lives.
Arundhati Roy has meticulously observed social and political attitudes in India and spread her findings throughout the book. The society depicted in the story is repressive to most characters in some way or the other. Problems faced on a daily basis by Untouchables, by women, by the poor and by children are "small" ones that are insignificant and ignored by and large by society. Rahel speaks of the "God of Small Things" repeatedly, who looks after insignificant things and people such as herself, her brother, her mother, and the Untouchable Velutha. It is only when the little things lead to big things, such as Sophie Mol's death or the knowledge of a scandalous secret of a family member that society takes notice and all hell breaks loose.
Arundhati Roy has fit a tremendous amount of emotions and intensity in 336 pages. The God of Small Things is a novel that can be read time and again, owing to its sheer richness in style and content. It is also a very relevant book, with multiple movements propping up around the world nowadays to fight age-old unjust practices - from the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka to the Maoist struggle in India, from the Egyptian Revolution to Occupy Wall Street. The God of Small Things is a fiction, based on real history, desires, desperation and issues. With her sensitive and beautiful story telling abilities, I look forward to reading the next fiction Arundhati Roy writes, should she do so.
**I have written a full analysis (with an excerpt) of this book on my blog - if you wish, you can read that for a fuller understanding of the novel: [...]