Thursday, August 21, 2008

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

I finished reading Arundhati Roy's award-winning The God of Small Things almost 2 weeks ago, but I've been procrastinating on writing a review for several different reasons. First, I can't stop watching the Olympics! I am a fairly competitive person, I grew up playing sports (as did my 3 siblings), and I just love watching these amazing athletes! Second, I've been rather bogged down in reading Uncle Tom's Cabin. I don't dislike the book, but it is long and requires rather slow reading. Lastly, I don't exactly know what I think about The God of Small Things. It was the 2nd book for my (in real life) book club, and a perfect example of why I wanted to be in a book club. I probably wouldn't have ever picked up this book to read on my own, but I'm glad I did. This is a book that NEEDS to be discussed with others.

Rahel and Estha are "two egg twins" who both have vivid imaginations and don't even need to talk to communicate with each other. The majority of the story takes place in Ayemenem, India, when they are seven years old, and the entire book revolves around the happenings of one single day. The occurrences of the day are not told in chronological order AT ALL! In fact, in the first few pages of the book, we learn that Sophie Mol has died. Who Sophie Mol is, how she came to be in Ayemenem, how she died, and how that affected the twins for the rest of their lives is what the rest of the book entails.

Though I was curious to piece together the events of that fateful day, I was mostly captivated with Roy's writing. Her descriptions are incredibly vivid, whether she was describing clothing, what a building looks like, or even how a particular noise sounded. Most of the descriptive language is from the perspective of a seven-year old--a smart, imaginative seven year old-- "Rahel found a whole column of juicy ants. They were on their way to church. All dressed in red. They had to be killed before they got there. Squished and squashed with a stone. You can't have smelly ants in church. The ants made a faint crunchy sound as life left them. Like an elf eating toast, or a crisp biscuit" (176).

However great her descriptions, Roy's use of repetition and the way she places words together to form new words is what is most interesting to me about her writing. When I think back on reading this book, I know I will remember several phrases because of their frequent appearance on the pages, such as "things can change in a day," "Locust stand I," "Not old. Not young. But a viable die-able age," and the most haunting, "loved a little less." All of these phrases represent the major themes within the story.

This was not a fast read for me. I had to get used to Roy's writing, and I frequently re-read passages to try to understand the meaning behind the words. The story is not a happy one, and there are several rather disturbing events throughout the book. However, I am glad to have read it, and as I have not read very many books set in India, this was a learning experience for me as well. Arundhati Roy is an excellent writer, and I believe this is a book that I could read again. Since I now know the order of events, so I won't be trying to figure out what happened, I could focus on the writing and the allusions within the book.

Date completed: August 11, 2008
# of pages: 321

Other reviews:
Trish's Reading Nook, Things Mean a Lot, Reflections of Me, Caribousmom


Wendy said...

You're right - Roy's language in this novel is wonderful. I loved the book. Here is my review if you are interested in reading it :)

Dar said...

Great review Laura. I've read yours and Trish's review of this novel and it is definitely one I'd like to read in the future. I really love when authors write so descriptively. It sounds as though a person should read this one when they are really ready to take the time to concentrate on it.

Literary Feline said...

This is one I really want to read. I am currently reading a book set in India and over the years have been drawn to books set there. Great review, Laura!

Laura said...

Wendy-thanks for sharing your review...I added your link to my post!

Dar-You are so right--this book requires extra time and concentration to appreciate the incredible writing.

LF-this is my first book set in India, but definitely not my last! What do you recommend?

Literary Feline said...

Hi, Laura! For novels set in India, I recommend Thrity Umrigar and Amulya Malladi. Amulya's books are of a slightly lighter fair, but I enjoy them. I am currently reading a book called Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan, which I am enjoying so far.

Laura said...

LF-Thanks for the recommendations! I'll definitely look into them!

Nymeth said...

I just can't imagine reading this one fast. I'd like to re-read it too someday, for those same reasons you mentioned. I bet it's even better the second time around.

Trish said...

Even with the quote you provided about the ants I immediately had a mental image of the part in the book. Such a visual book!! I'm glad you ended up liking this one--I was a little worried. And, yes, I am definitely glad we were able to discuss this one in a bookclub setting. I certainly got a lot more out of it than if I had just read it by myself. Need to get the audio for Eat Pray Love!

Anna said...

The language alone has prompted me to put this book on my TBR list. Thanks for the review!

--Diary of an Eccentric

Laura said...

~Anna--you won't be disappointed! The language is unforgettable!

Charley said...

I've heard mixed reviews of this book, but the title sticks with me, and I am curious about it.