Narrated through the eyes of Rahel, The God of Small Things is the story of Rahel and her twin brother Estha. Set in 1969 and present day Kerala, it recounts how life can change in a day.
Spellbound! That’s the only word to describe the effect this book had on me. The book grows on your mind like a creeper. I have read only a few Booker Prize winners, but this one by far is the best.
The story revolves around “The Tragedy” – death of Sophie Mol. Sophie Mol, cousin of Rahel and Estha whom everybody loves and worships for her fairness even before she sets her foot in India (She was the daughter Rahel’s uncle and his British wife). Sophie Mol is drowned while playing and somehow the children are involved. Life changes in a day.
Ammu, Rahel and Estha’s estranged mother falls in love with Velutha, an untouchable. Velutha is beaten to death for this “crime” by police and Ammu is spurned by her family. She dies, only 31. The twins are separated from each other. Life changes in a day, again.
The God of Small Things operates on two levels. At a personal level, it is the story of how a tragedy can weigh on a family and cripple it. At another level, it is a story seeped into Politics and shameful traditions.
Like all great books, this one also is a slow starter. It tested my patience for first 15 pages or so. But by the time I finished reading Rahel’s portrayal of monsoon in Kerala, I was hooked. The picture of monsoon that Rahel paints is incredibly vivid and rich. In fact, what makes this book really special is Roy’s writing style. It seems as if English is madly in love with her. The story keeps shifting from 1969 to present day and back inconsistently, the chapters are not set chronologically and yet Roy adroitly manoeuvres the story towards the cataclysm. The characters seen from the eyes of a 7 year old innocent are exceptionally real. She plays with the words and phrases with the deftness of a skilled magician – short, crisp sentences, poignant similes, so much so that I kept going back to many of them.
It’s a melancholy, yeah… I guess that’s the exact word… it’s a melancholy book. Reading it is like sitting alone on a deserted beach on a dark, cloudy day and watching the waves of the ocean play joyfully. Yet the shadow of the impending torrent looms large on your mind. It is a difficult book to read and an even difficult one to review as there are no middle grounds about it. You either hate it or love it. I loved it and hope so would you.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your time.
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