The God of Small Things: A Review

-Dhritishna Kalita

This is a beautiful book. Beauty-full.

Yes, that is exactly how I would describe writer-cum-social activist Arundhati Roy’s 1997 Man Booker Prize winning novel, The God of Small Things. Ms Roy’s brilliant interplay with words gifts the reader entry to a different world that he can see and feel – and that is where the beauty lies. The reader can play the scenes in his mind: the lucid writing ensures the he is seeing the things and not reading about them. The story is not a surprise; the characters could be the ones out of any Hindi prime-time soap that we are so familiar with. Yet, something makes her book different: she creates the extraordinary out of the ordinary.

The backdrop of the story is set in the small town of Ayemenem in Kerala, the protagonists being a set of dizygotic twins, Estha and Rahel. The tale spans a period of almost three decades, telling the story in flashbacks. The uncanny attachment between the twins is highlighted. The twins are brought up by their mother, Ammu, who is divorced, and thus they have nearly no knowledge of their father as children. Playing vital roles in the lives of the twins are their uncle, Chacko, who, for them, is a substitute for their father. In a negative role is their grand-aunt, Baby Kochamma- unmarried, sly and nurturing a thorough disregard for her niece and her children.

The book touches the core of both explored and unexplored areas in the bonds between members of a family. The upbringing of two children by a single mother has been beautifully described; lessons of growing-up provided to the children and how they determine their behaviour and actions have been very cleverly portrayed. The problem of untouchability that plagues the society plays an important part in the narrative. On the side, some light has also been thrown upon the dominance of men over women.  In short, the author concentrates on two main objects in this book: the family and the society.

The magic of this book lies both in the presentation as well as the content. However, what makes reading this book an amazing experience is the exquisite usage of words. I would go so far as to say that Ms Roy has invented her own, very personal language for this book. The lion’s share of all my accolades is surely reserved for her magnificent expression and eloquent comparisons stating the obvious. Another thing that lends beauty to this book is the author’s ability to personify objects, animals and feelings and use them in ways that leaves the reader in awe. It is a book of mysterious metaphors; the title of the books testifies this very fact. The book is praiseworthy because it doesn’t say it, and yet says it all.

 

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