Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The God of Small Things

Author: Arundhati Roy

Pages: 321

Genre: Fiction

Personal Rating: 2.5

Awards: Booker Prize

From the back cover:

The story of the tragic decline of an Indian family whose members suffer the terrible consequences of forbidden love, The God of Small Things is set in the state of Kerala, on the southernmost tip of India. Armed only with the
invincible innocence of children, the twins Rahel and Esthappen fashion a childhood for themselves in the shade of the wreck that is their family — their lonely, lovely mother, Ammu (who loves by night the man her children love by day), their blind grandmother, Mammachi (who plays Handel on her violin), their beloved uncle Chacko (Rhodes scholar, pickle baron, radical Marxist, bottom-pincher), their enemy, Baby Kochamma (ex-nun and incumbent grandaunt), and the ghost of an imperial entomologist's moth (with unusually dense dorsal tufts).

When their English cousin and her mother arrive on a Christmas visit, the twins learn that Things Can Change in a Day. That lives can twist into new, ugly shapes, even cease forever. The brilliantly plotted story uncoils with an agonizing sense of foreboding and inevitability. Yet nothing prepares you for what lies at the heart of it.
Well, unfortunately I've read another prize winner that has left me shaking my head. While I do admit Roy writes beautifully, I also found her writing tedious and confusing. She often jumped back and forth in time, making it difficult to tell what was going in. In one paragraph Ammu is alive and a few paragraphs later she has been dead for a long time. I found this novel difficult to read. After several chapters I found her writing style to be annoying. "She told me to 'stop it' so i 'stoppited it'". To me she came across as trying to hard to write uniquely.

There were many characters. I didn't really care about any of them. I don't feel Roy developed any of them enough to allow that. Or she jumped around so much you couldn't develop a bond with them. Plus there names were very confusing. Now this may partially be my fault. I started this book over a week ago out of town at a funeral. I got a chapter or two in and put it down in disgust. I re-injured my foot yesterday so I picked it back up for a marathon finish. I was determined to finish it so i could move onto a book I would enjoy more.

It's a little funny, I just went and read a few 5 star reviews and a lot of them even admit they initially had trouble staying interested or found it slow going.

Must read? I don't think so. With so many other books about India out there I would grab something else. Oh yeah, the story line overall is just plain depressing.



Joy said...

I didn't like this one either! Ugh!

Juli said...


I think you and I have very similar taste!

Eva said...

This one didn't impress me either. Nor did Inheritance of Loss. The Booker is hit and miss for me-some of the authors/books I love, others I just think are trying too hard to be 'literary.'

Kat said...

I read this book several years ago for my book club...and none of us liked it. I always wonder what exactly makes a book a prize winner. On my 888 list this year, one of my categories is prize winners...and I am leary of them...I look at the list and wonder if I have made a mistake!

bethany said...

wow, you are reading away for the OT challenge! so cool.

Huh, interesting...I haven't read this one, my husband read it in college and told me that it was good, but he couldn't remember if he was getting it confused with another book. I bought it recently at a used book store, excited to get to read it. For my sake I hope I do enjoy it, but I am very thankful for your review of warning! I will be sure to let you know my feelings either way when I get to reading it.

Great travels so far on OT!!! good for you!

Becca said...

Juli: Thanks for linking to me! I found this book confusing too, but I was glad to have made it through it. I enjoyed the look into one aspect of Indian culture, especially the historical parts that showed the country (and hence the characters) grappling with the changes going on around them both politically and religiously.

Ami said...

I have just finished reading "The God of Small Things" (see my review at my blog. I think that Roy is very inovative in breaking out of a formal time line and her use of the English language, but was disappointed that she didn't have a more positive message that point to (her) solution to the issues she raises.

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