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The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
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The God of Small Things (1997)

by Arundhati Roy

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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16,606300203 (3.88)602
The story of an Indian family during the 1969 Communist disturbances in Kerala province. It is told through the eyes of a boy and his sister who are the children of a rich rubber planter. Politics, family drama, illicit love. A debut in fiction.
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» See also 602 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 265 (next | show all)
Wow. The narrative style immediately reminded me of [b:Beloved|570179|Beloved|Toni Morrison|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1387706052s/570179.jpg|736076] and [b:Absalom, Absalom!|781818|Absalom, Absalom!|William Faulkner|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1338821231s/781818.jpg|1595511], employing what I have always labeled as "revelation by degrees," but what John Updike in his review of Roy's novel appropriately calls "accumulating revelations." What a beautiful, mesmerizing, complex, and moving achievement -- a commentary on the ways in which society, families, and individuals develop "Love Laws...the laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much." In fact, this is essentially a Love story, the most poignant moment occurring when Rahel lies in bed with her uncle and asks him, in what can only be imagined as that achingly innocent and desperately uncertain voice of a child, if one is bound to love his or her children "Most in the World." Of course, Roy foreshadows, here, what later transpires between the twins and their mother; she effectively repudiates them, albeit in a moment of intense exasperation, and sends them fleeing into what turns out to be the "Terror." This, however, follows a brief lapse in Rahel's judgment, during which she inadvertently disrespects her mother and then embarks upon a series of pitiful attempts to regain her devotion. Love appears, in varied manifestations, elsewhere -- the aunt whose momentary venture into romance is a years-long and unrequited infatuation with a clergyman; the multiple failed marriages; the relationship between the twins. In all of these things Roy makes clear the colorless, classless, creed-less desire that defines, universally, the human journey on earth: not merely the pursuit of Love as a thing to possess, but also the compulsive development of some Love concept.

India gained its independence from Britain (the British Raj) in 1948 and the Indian Constitution abolished any institutional discrimination against what Indians traditionally called "untouchables" -- those employed to do certain kinds of manual labor, such as those that might require the employee to come into contact with excrement or slaughtered animals. The activist Mahatma Gandhi dared to change the vocabulary, disposing of the term "untouchables" in favor of the label "children of God." However, according to a 2013 New York Times article by Lavanya Sankaran, caste values may dictate matters of the heart even in the India of today. ( )
  TheaJean | Jun 2, 2020 |
The God of Small Things is a dark Indian novel woven around the themes of caste, family and the complexities and misunderstandings that so often surround love (both familial and sexual).

I found it a difficult novel in many senses, but thankfully eventually my reading persistence was rewarded. In the first third I almost bailed. It took a long time to get going, and my attention kept drifting. With complex relationships between the characters I found I kept having to go back a few pages to remind myself who was who, and the story just wasn't grabbing me.

Finally, when it did get going, it became a decent page turner, but a dark one at that. We know from the beginning that a tragedy has occurred resulting in the death of a visiting child cousin from England, and as the novel develops we finally discover all the off-shoots from the tragedy and the full story emerges. The narrative alternates between the lead up to the tragedy and the present day repercussions of it within the family, which usually works very nicely for this kind of novel, but the present day side of the story didn't really go anywhere.

All in all, I'm a bit conflicted on my thoughts around this novel. It's a Booker Prize winner, and in the first third I was eye-rolling and thinking this is exactly why I often hate Booker novels (over-complex narrative lauded for its very dullness and pomposity). But it did have sparks of genius at times, and when it was good it was excellent. I just don't think I can forgive the dullness of the first third, though, so for that reason it's not on my 'one to recommend' pile. It's also a book laced with anguish and evolving horrors, so it felt somewhat a relief to get to the end of it.

3.5 stars - Marilynne Robinson darkness but without the narrative gentleness. ( )
  AlisonY | May 2, 2020 |
Well written but such a tedious story about such a tedious family. I didn't think that jumping backwards and forwards in time added anything to the reading pleasure and very little actually happened for at least the first half of the book. Expected much, ended up disappointed. ( )
  neal_ | Apr 10, 2020 |
Really could not get on with this one. I didn't find the characters engaging and I didn't always like the writing style. The things that happen to the family are tragic, but it didn't evoke any empathy, just sadness.

( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
Incredible language. It's hard to believe someone writes like that. Holds you by the throat. Conjures up some pictures from when I was in Kerala, mixing it up with stories I read in the papers and adding the taste memory of packaged (non-Keralan) pickles I've had, makes even the limited understanding an outsider as me can have, painfully real. ( )
  linuskendall | Mar 22, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 265 (next | show all)
If Ms. Roy is sometimes overzealous in foreshadowing her characters' fate, resorting on occasion to darkly portentous clues, she proves remarkably adept at infusing her story with the inexorable momentum of tragedy. She writes near the beginning of the novel that in India, personal despair ''could never be desperate enough,'' that ''it was never important enough'' because ''worse things had happened'' and ''kept happening.'' Yet as rendered in this remarkable novel, the ''relative smallness'' of her characters' misfortunes remains both heartbreaking and indelible.
 

» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roy, Arundhatiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jonkheer, ChristienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lundborg, GunillaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Never again will a single story be told as though it's the only one.

John Berger
Dedication
For Mary Roy, who grew me up. Who taught me to say "excuse me" before interrupting her in Public. Who loved me enough to let me go.

For LKC, who, like me, survived.
First words
May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month.
Maj je v Ajemenemu vroč, morast mesec.
Quotations
"D'you know what happens when you hurt people? When you hurt people, they begin to love you less. That's what careless words do. They make people love you a little less."
"Just ignore her," Ammu said. "She's just trying to attract attention."

Ammu too was wrong. Rahel was trying to not attract the attention that she deserved.
Rahel looked around her and saw that she was in a Play. But she had only a small part.
She was just the landscape. A flower perhaps. Or a tree.
A face in the crowd. A Townspeople.
Heaven opened and the water hammered down, reviving the reluctant old well, greenmossing the pigless pigsty, carpet bombing still, tea-coloured puddles the way memory bombs still, tea-coloured minds.
Rahel drifted into marriage like a passenger drifts towards an unoccupied chair in an airport lounge. With a Sitting Down sense.
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