Books on GIF #60 — 'The God of Small Things' by Arundhati Roy
|Books on GIF||Oct 29, 2017|
This Sunday's book is 'The God of Small Things' by Arundhati Roy.
Guys, this book literally had me like:
'The God of Small Things' was as enjoyable as a trip to the dentist, and it took me a few days after I finished it before I could start reading a new book because I needed time to process it. Not because it's bad. It isn't. It is beautifully written, very powerful and certainly deserved the Booker Prize. But it describes horrific abuses — sexual, emotional, physical and deadly — and injustices done to, within and by an Indian family. It was so depressing that I had to psych myself up every day to read it. Now I'm having a hard time writing this review because it's forcing me to relive the book when I'd rather be like:
So I'm going to keep this shortish. Which is hard to do because there's a lot going on in this story that focuses on several generations of this family, whose name I never quite caught, but is nominally centered around the daughter, Rahel. It jumps back and forth from when Rahel is roughly 8 years old to when she is in her early 30s and returns to her small hometown in India after years of traveling abroad, college, marriage in the United States and divorce. She moves back into her great aunt's house, which is ground zero for the traumatic events of her childhood, and it's where her twin brother, Estha, is also currently living. He hasn't spoken in years since he was sent away to live with his estranged alcoholic father after a nuclear blast of traumatic events when he and Rahel were 8 that occurred one right after the other. First, he was sexually abused by a movie theater's soda fountain operator, then his 9-year-old cousin drowned on a midnight boat ride Estha organized, then his mother's illicit liaison with an 'Untouchable' man, named Velutha, is revealed and causes a scandal, then his mother has a sort of nervous breakdown and tells her children she doesn't love them, then he's forced to snitch on Velutha to justify the police beating the man to death and, finally, there's his mother's lonely death in a dirty hotel room after she lost parental standing due to her relationship with Velutha. See what I'm talking about? And that's not all the trauma here, but:
There is no god in this book, but there are plenty of small things that I really liked. I loved the metaphors the author used. In my favorite example, Rahel says a mean thing as a child, and her mother tells her that saying mean things make people love you a little less. Rahel's guilt felt like a moth with icy feet had landed on her heart. That's so great and evocative. I also loved how Roy was able to reveal pieces of information during the childhood flashbacks that Rahel was able to piece together and understand more clearly as an adult. That felt to me like she really captured how childhood memories work, and how we understand their true meaning only as we get older. I also loved her descriptions of things, and how she used little details — a dirty curtain, a kangaroo-shaped ashtray or the smell of the seat cushions in a taxi that doubled as its driver's home — to make scenes come alive. And finally, I liked how the book showed that seemingly small incidents — a passing comment made from parent to child, for example — can lead to calamities, and how significant and awful things can be brushed aside or overlooked as though they were small and meaningless. As I said:
So if you want to read some truly exceptional writing and feel miserable while doing it, pick up 'The God of Small Things.' As for me, I'm swearing off depressing books for a while.
'The God of Small Things' by Arundhati Roy was published in 1997 and 2017 by Random House. 321 pages.
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What's next? In the coming weeks Books on GIF will review 'The Power' by Naomi Alderman, 'The Shipping News' by Annie Proulx and 'Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay' by Elena Ferrante, among others.
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* Thanks especially to Donna for copy editing this review!