Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review: 'The God of Small Things' by Arundhati Roy

Just last week, I read a post on Lynda R Young's blog about reviewing books and thought I'd refer back to it while I wrote this one.

I finally finished reading The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy a couple of days ago while I was on the train, travelling between my hometown and the city. I started reading this book for one of my university classes back in August, but didn't hurry to finish it because I was not responding to it for my assignment. Although I didn't have to finish it, I'd read and liked enough of it to want to finish it.

Roy's characters are realistic, complex, and well defined. Estha and Rahel, the fraternal twins whose point of view most of the story is told from, are my favourite characters. I found it easy to relate to Ammu's independent ways, which ultimately got her in to trouble and troubled the lives of everyone around her. I loved the Untouchable, Velutha, just as they did, right down to the last sentence of the book.

I love that the plot was revealed in a non-linear way, that started towards the end and then went back and forth a few times until everything made sense. This was pulled off really well. Each time we moved between times, Roy gave us just enough to keep us curious, but not enough for us to guess exactly what happens until the story is over. I don't think I have a favourite part, but one of the most memorable part was the incident with Estha and the orangedrink/lemondrink man at the theatre. I remember, I was reading that scene on another long train ride and had to stop myself from audibly expressing how disturbed and distressed it made me. Even at the very end of the novel, the last scene wasn't from the end of the narrative, but it left the reader on a happier, more hopeful note to balance all the darkness of the end of the narrative. The plot moved along a little slowly at points, especially wherever we stopped to introduce and explain the background of a newly introduced character. However, I couldn't find any of these slowed-down instances that were actually irrelevant to the story; there were certain things that characters did that you needed to know more about them to understand why. Even in these instances, whatever information we were given was unique and interesting.

Roy's story was set mostly in India and the setting here felt like another character. Roy uses very unique descriptions, sometimes gritty and brutally honest, sometimes magically beautiful. Reading it, it was easy to place myself there and visualise everything that was described, sometimes even a little bit more.

Roy's overall style was unique. Along with the non-linear narrative structure that she uses, she also uses really original phrases and descriptions. I think it would have been hard to find a cliche. Some of the ways she worded things surprised me, shocked me. There were a few moments a cliche would have fitted perfectly, but right when you thought you were about to read it, she turned it on its head and gave you something else. A few of these particular wordings became motifs throughout the story. She also used a lot of imagery - again, very original - some of which also became recurring motifs. The story was really beautifully written, and I think that was a big contributor to my wanting to finish it.

Along with the beautiful style, the content of the story is also very original, at least in my opinion. It's not a happy story and it's authenticity is emphasised by Roy's nitty-gritty honesty in everything she includes in the pages. The God of Small Things is a story about how breaking the laws of love ("... who should be loved and how. And how much.") alters the lives of fraternal twins Estha and Rahel, their mother Ammu, the man they all love, and everybody else around them. Their story is dark and disturbing and things get weird at times, but that's all a part of why I loved it.

I definitely recommend this to read.

In other news, it's Day 5 of NaNoWriMo 2013 here in Australia, and the writing I did today has boosted my word count to just over 9,000 words. I am loving the amount of time I am spending with my characters from WALLS, especially Mildred and Kovax, and how well I'm getting to know them while I watch them change and grow on the page in front of me. At the moment, Mildred is having a deep and meaningful conversation on the couch with her friend Lani, and Kovax is nursing the bruises from his most recent schoolyard scuffle... and to think, it's only Tuesday.

Have you read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy? How are your NaNoWriMo/NaNoRevisMo/NaNoNoNo goals going? 

- Bonnee.

Edit: Much thanks to P V Ariel for reminding me to make note of the fact that The God of Small Things is the winner of the 1997 Booker Prize for fiction and also reached fourth place on the New York Times Bestsellers list for Independent Fiction. Arundhati Roy's debut novel was a huge success for her. 


  1. I have not read The God of Small Things, but I keep hearing good things about it. I'll have to check it out. Great progress on WALLS! It's so nice to have a lot of time to work on writing, isn't it? I got a couple of hours of solid revision time in on Saturday, and when I got up from the chair I felt so energized. Keep it up!

    1. I've noticed that spending a long time writing makes me restless and I know when I have to get up and do something else because I stop being able to concentrate. That might also be due to my step-mum's puppy distracting me... How much of BW do you think you covered in those two hours? :) Thanks for visiting!

    2. Yeah, I tend to hit a point where I'm just done. A puppy is a nice distraction! Hmm, hard to say on the progress. I've been trying to keep track of the 'essential figures' of the piece: word count/page count at the end of each day, but I don't have an entry from the day before. I *think* I got through about 10 pages in those two hours, but I also think that was a day where I had spent about 20 minutes on one paragraph. I can say I finished that day on page 75; today I will be starting on page 133.

    3. Any progress is good progress! Keep it up :D And don't let puppies distract you too much...

    4. You know, I can't explain why I thought of this just now, but you might really enjoy "A Thousand Splendid Suns," by Khaled Hosseini. There may be a lot of overlap between the two in terms of theme and content. Give it a try.

    5. Thanks for the recommendation :) I'll keep an eye out for it!

  2. I've heard of this book but haven't read it either. I'm all for anyone who turns a cliche on its head though. And I've not attempted to write a non-linear story like that, but I can appreciate the difficulty of trying to bring everything together to make it work. Nice review. :)

    1. It's definitely worth the read, if not for the intriguing story than at least for the pleasure of seeing how well it's all structured and written. Thanks for visiting :)

  3. Hi Bonne,
    It’s really good to be here again.
    Thanks for the review.
    It’s a very interesting story acclaimed by many literary personalities.
    You did a well job by giving a gist of the book in this review.
    The story set up mostly happened in Kerala my native place
    Aymanam is hardly forty minutes drive from my native place.
    You forgot to mention an important thing about this interesting book
    This book received the 1977 Booker Prize for fiction and was listed.
    The Wikipedia says and I quote:
    “The publication of The God of Small Things catapulted Roy to instant international fame. It received the 1997 Booker Prize for Fiction and was listed as one of the New York Times Notable Books of the Year for 1997. And It reached fourth position on the New York Times Bestsellers list for Independent Fiction. the book was also a commercial success: Roy received half a million pounds as an advance; It was published in May, and the book had been sold to eighteen countries.”
    To read more please click here;

    A PDF form of the book can be downloaded from here.
    Thanks for reminding us about this wonderful book.
    Keep inform
    Philip Ariel

    1. I am glad to be finding somebody else who had read it, so thank you for commenting! How could I have forgotten about the achievements? I did know all of this, it must have slipped my mind because I was writing in a rush. I will make a note of it!

      Kerala sounds like a really beautiful place from how Roy describes it. Unfortunately, I don't think I could now go there without thinking constantly of the tragic lives of her characters!

  4. Thanks for telling us about the book. It's in the book store in my building so I'll read the first chapter to get her writing style, although I feel that it's too literary for me. I aim to read commercial styling, closer to my style. Nice words count for the first 5 days. Wondering about the name Kovax ... never heard this name before. Best wishes to continue on this pace of writing for NaNo and settling back at home for the summer.

    1. It's fair enough that you'd want to read things closer to your own style. I got the name Kovax from the surname of a boy I used to go to school with, who's last name was Kovacs. I don't know why, but I liked the name. Thanks for visiting, Giora :D

  5. Sounds like NaNo is going wonderfully for you! This is sort of an aside, but I love the name Lani. I don't think I've ever heard it before, but there's such a uniqueness to it. I already want to learn more about that character! :)

    1. Thanks Shari. I think I might have heard the name before, though I couldn't tell you where. I just liked it and used it. I've done a Google search since you mentioned it though, and apparently it's a Hawaiian name which translates to 'heaven' or 'sky', which I think might be slightly appropriate. As a character, she's like a voice of reason to the protagonist, Mildred.

      Thank you for visiting!

  6. After reading your review, I'm intrigued by the book. Once NaNo is done, I'll give this book a read.

    (Thanks so much for the linky love)

    1. Hoping that your NaNo is going as well as mine, if not better. Enjoy the read and thank you for visiting!

      (I wanted to give credit where credit was due!)


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