"The God of Small Things" by Arundathi Roy

“The God of Small Things” is the story of an Indian family, focusing mainly on a pair of twins, Estha and Rahel. In the first few pages of the book, we discover that their childhood was marked by a tragedy: their cousin, Sophie Mol, died in India when she was visiting from England, and this event has shaped their whole lives. What exactly happened that summer, the shape of other tragedies surrounding that one, is slowly revealed throughout the book. Arundathi Roy reveals the mystery bit by bit, and with unbelievable delicacy. The story moves back and forth between the past, the events leading up to and following the tragedy, and the present, when the twins are meeting again for the first time since they were children.

Arundathi Roy is one of the most talented, original and expressive authors I have ever encountered. Her writing is absolutely intoxicating. Her words evoked the Indian landscape perfectly. But it wasn’t just that – the way she evoked childhood with its little fears and mysteries was also remarkable. And the way she evoked grief and loss, and other feelings too subtle to name. Allow me to share a few favourite passages with you:
“Once the quietness arrived, it stayed and spread in Estha. It reached out of his head and enfolded him in its swampy arms. It rocked him to the rhythm of an ancient, foetal heartbeat. It sent its stealthy, suckered tentacles inching along the insides of his skull, hovering the knolls and dells of his memory, dislodging old sentences, whisking them off the tip of his tongue.”
And this passage on storytelling just might be my favourite in the whole book:
“It didn’t matter that the story had begun, because kathakli had discovered long ago that the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.”
Reading this book taught me a few things about the Indian caste system – the Paravans and their lack of rights, and the cultural rules that often govern people’s feelings and private lives – and the political climate at the time the story unfolds. Both these things end up being very important in the story's outcome.

As much as I enjoyed every single sentence of this book, my absolutely favourite part was the last few chapters and the ending, which were beautiful and extremely moving. The solution to the mystery, the answer to the question “what exactly happened that forever changed these people’s lives?” is not too hard to imagine once a certain point in the book is reached. And yet, when it finally came, it had me in tears. I think this is a book that will be even more enjoyable when read for the second time, because once the full story is revealed, all the little details become even more poignant.

I’m afraid that there isn’t much more I can say, because a great part of the beauty of this book is in the way things slowly come together and form a clear picture, like a puzzle in the hands of an eager child. So I’ll just say that I can see why this book is often called a masterpiece and a modern classic. I am very very glad I picked it up at last.


    Wonderful review! I agree with you - the language in this novel was just beautiful. I also rated it very high (5/5). A must read, I think!