Genre: Fiction, Drama
“They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved and how. And how much.” Arundhati Roy – God of small things.
A story about three generations of one broken family made up of flawed and broken individuals. It deals with themes of class and caste, love and sexuality, family and politics, and other little things. The God of Small Things is more than a novel. It’s an immersion of senses into a world, a language, a society, a culture that leaves you shattered. Arundhati Roy has crafted a world within the sleepy little town of Ayemenem. The way she has written is almost as if she invented her own language. The prose is so distinct and poetic that I’ve never read anything like it. At its heart, this is a story of family struggle (and everything that entails), but the trauma and division are beautifully balanced with lush descriptions of Kerala life.
‘May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, fatly baffled in the sun.’
Estha and Rahel, two-egg twins have met after years of staying apart. Set in the backwaters of Kerala during the height of Marxist influence, the book moves back-and-forth in time to establish the twins’ lives, and also that of their family – their parents, uncle, grandmother, and grandaunt. One tragic evening unravels any semblance of balance in their lives and leaves the family broken.
“Perhaps it’s true that things can change in a day. That a few dozen hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes. And that when they do, those few dozen hours, like the salvaged remains of a burned house—the charred clock, the singed photograph, the scorched furniture—must be resurrected from the ruins and examined. Preserved. Accounted for. Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Imbued with new meaning. Suddenly they become the bleached bones of a story.”
Through the eyes of the twins, Estha and Rahel, she’s pointed out the hypocrisy, dejection, and sadness that is in the world. Specifically related to Love. About who should be loved and how much. Neither the questions asked, nor the answers given are easy. I can only imagine what her process might have been while writing this masterpiece. It is one of the finest pieces of literature I’ve ever read. The beautiful prose makes rain soaked, pickled flavour, cast ridden, left leaning Kerala come alive.
But what really bothered me is the constant repetition and lack of setting and description.
The story goes back and forth in time and and is filled with rich metaphors so it demands more attention.
If I have to describe it in a sentence I would say – It’s a lesson in sociology baked in prose poetry.
Pick this book up when your brain isn’t too scrambled.