The God of Small Things - Arundhathi Roy

"May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid, The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dust green trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air, Then they stun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, fatly baffled in the Sun. The nights are clear, but suffused with sloth and sullen expectation."

Set in Kerala, a state in Southern tip of India, this is the story of a fractured and an affluent Ape family who are collectively wrapped in tragedies. There is the death of Sophie Mol, a little girl who returns from Britain and loved by everyone and that of Velutha, a carpenter who is an untouchable and whose life seems to have very little value. These two characters occupy the far ends of the human spectrum.  Ammu, the mother of 7 year old twins – Rahel and Estha, returned to her parents’ home unwelcome when she could no longer stand her husband’s abuse.Then there is Chacko, Sophie Mol’s father and Ammu’s brother, a Rhodes Scholar who returned from England after his wife Margaret divorces him. Later when Margaret’s husband Joe dies in an accident, she along her daughter Sophie Mol visit Chacko in Kerala. Ammachi, the proud owner of Paradise Pickles is an accomplished Violinist who with stood the abuse of Papachi, an entomologist. Baby Kochamma, the twins' great aunt, is not a lovable character in the book. She is fond of TV and peanuts.The forbidden love of Ammu for Velutha brings about the tragedy leaving the children's lives in shambles.

"In those early amorphous years when memory had only just begun, whose life was full of Beginnings and no Ends, and Every thing was Forever, Esthappen and Rahel thought of themselves together as Me, and separately, individually, as We or Us.”

Roy's effortless style is evident in the poetic prose that describes the simplest and the nontrivial with utmost ingenuity. With no single vantage point, the story is written non-linearly spiraling back and forth between stories and time lines. The story unfolds as a pile of puzzle pieces for the reader's mind and emotions to piece them together.

The rhythmic language, heavy with similes and metaphors perhaps drew more attention than the story and the message itself. Roy does a fine job of untangling complex layers of emotions intertwined with each character and story. However, I was hoping for some good spirit in every next page but after every twist and turn was yet another disappointment.Certainly, it is not a book for some one who looks forward to a happy ending.

The reader gets a good peek into India's rigid caste system and the social constructs dictating someone’s choice of love and freedom. To summarize the plot would not be fair to the book and the complexities that lie beneath the surface; to the many questions that are left unanswered; to the characters that delve deep portraying a wide range of emotions and insecurities.

I will leave you with some of my favorite lines from the book-

"It is curious how sometimes the memory of death lives on for so long than the memory of the life that it purloined."

"They all broke the rules. They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tampered  with the laws that lay down who should be loved and how. And how much. The laws that make grandmothers grandmothers, uncles uncles, mothers mothers, cousins cousins, jam jam and jelly jelly."

"the air was full of Thoughts and Things to say. But at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. Big things lurk unsaid inside."

"...things can change in a day"

As Estha stirred the thick jam he thought Two Thoughts and the two thoughts he thought were:

1) Anything can happen to anyone and

2) It is best to be prepared

"While other children of their age learned other things, Estha and Rahel learned how history negotiates its terms and collects its dues from those who break laws. They heard its sickening thud, They smelled its smell and never forgot it"

"It was a time when the unthinkable became the thinkable and the impossible really happened."


1 comment:

Bergamot said...

I love this book. It is beautifully written

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