Sunday, September 11, 2011

Athena K's Review - The God of Small Things

There are so many reasons to love this book.  I finished two days ago and I am still thinking about it: the imagery, the characters, the narrative structure, the tragedy.  I peeked and read some of the reviews of this book posted on GoodReads, and have to conclude that apparently I really like books that many find "too depressing."  Calling The God of Small Things "too depressing" is like saying you hate King Lear (or insert your favorite Shakespearean tragedy) because it too is depressing. 

Arundhati Roy begins her story at the end, and ends the story in the middle.  I'm not sure I have read another book with quite the same narrative structure - her bold choice ended up being perfect.  The last chapter of this book is the missing piece that elevates the novel, that makes two main characters become real at last, and ties together the themes of time (For The Time Being v. Later v. Not Ever), forbidden love (contrasted with the provocative interaction between twins Rahel and Estha), and tradition. 

Of course, all that would not be possible without her incredible writing style.  She sets the scene at the beginning so well that it begs to be read aloud:
It was raining when Rahel came back to Aymenem.  Slanting silver ropes slammed into loose earth, plowing it up like gunfire.  The old house on the hill wore its steep, gabled roof pulled over its ears like a low hat.  The walls, streaked with moss, had grown soft, and bulged a little with dampness that seeped up from the ground.  The wild, overgrown garden was full of the whisper and scurry of small lives.  In the undergrowth a rat snake rubbed itself against a glistening stone.  Hopeful yellow bullfrogs cruised the scummy pond for mates.  A drenched mongoose flashed across the leaf-strewn driveway.
For me, there was a timelessness to this story.  The themes were ancient, but the setting refreshing and new.  It was a Great Story, as described in the chapter about the kathakali dancers - the kind that is familiar and though you know how it ends, you you listen as though you don't.  That is what makes this such an excellent novel and well-deserving winner.

1 comment:

  1. thumbs up athena. i read the god of samll things for the first time around 7 years back. i dunno how many time ive re-read it since...the quote at the beginning says it all, 'never again will a story be told as though it is the only one'. hear hear!