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Review of The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy
27 October 2017
Here is a book that has had me flabbergasted since I started reading it. Now that I have finished with it, I am still unable to shake off a sense of… disbelief?
Let’s consider why.
To begin with, the book is about a Syrian Christian family in Kerala, God’s Own Country in India. The story is about family intrigues, intrigues of love in and out of wedlock, political intrigues, industry ownership and labor movement intrigues. And children ensnared in the whole shindig.
While I am not Christian, part of my own ancestry is from Kerala, so I felt a sense of identity as I went through the book. I have identified and I have not identified.
After finishing the book and ruminating over it for a couple of days, I have not identified the protagonist. There are a few candidates in the book, but not one of them stands out more than the other. And yet, the story is whole.
There is an identifiable beginning, a mindboggling middle and a uncertain end that leaves the reader guessing. For a long time after the end, to be fair to the story.
I am not able to identify the writing style. It is crazy, and I am using that word after a lot of consideration. The storyline shows no respect for accepted theories on clarity of points of view and it shows scant deference to prescribed norms of backstory. It jumps from here to there and back, from him to her and back, from then to now and back with gray abandon. The tone of the book is neither bright white, nor dull black, but all shades of gray in between.
And yet, this extraordinary mishmash of ingredients works as a story, because it is almost horrifying in its underlying grime and struggle and pathos. It worked on me.