The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

The God of Small Things Arundhati RoyWinner of the Booker Prize in 1997, ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy tells the story of twins Esthappen and Rahel and their extended family living in Ayemenem House in Kerala, southern India including their mother Ammu, their uncle Chacko, grandmother Mammachi, great aunt Baby Kochamma and Chacko’s daughter Sophie Mol. The plot focuses on multiple family tragedies, the most significant of which are the mystery surrounding the death of Sophie Mol and the family’s disapproval of Ammu’s lover Velutha because he is an Untouchable.

It has been a while since I read one of the less recent Booker Prize winning novels but I’m very glad I finally read this one. Although it is rooted in a traditional family saga, there are many other layers to the book including the historical and social consequences of the communist movement and the caste system in India. The story alternates between Estha and Rahel’s early childhood during the 1960s and their adulthood in the 1990s and the complex structure keeps the reader in suspense with Roy only revealing subtle details about the circumstances surrounding Sophie Mol’s death at the necessary moments.

Above all, this is a book for those who love language and metaphors. The thing that struck me most about ‘The God of Small Things’ is the way in which the imagery in Roy’s prose is so vividly intense and evocative but without being overdone. The opening sequence is the most obvious example of this but Roy’s inventiveness with words is evident throughout the rest of the book too and the scenes told through the eyes of the twins when they are children are particularly effective. There are some points where the vagueness of the plot and structure can be hard to follow, especially the parts in which the strands set in the past and present blend almost seamlessly into each other. However, even though much of the story is very bleak, there are elements of humour in some of the more detailed character studies and it is worth persevering to the end which offers a brief glimpse of happiness despite knowing by this point what the ultimate tragic fate of the characters will be.

Roy has focused on non-fiction work including environmental and human rights activism in more recent years and ‘The God of Small Things’ remains her only novel to date. It is definitely one of the more memorable and eloquently written Booker Prize winners I have come across so far and I think it is very likely to stand the test of time.

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23 Comments

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23 responses to “The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

  1. I would hazard that this comes somewhere close into the category “Modern Classic” – it’s one of those books I often see on dating sites under the category “My Favourite Book” if that counts. Good to go back sometimes – it’s something I must get round to reading.

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  2. I read this so long ago, but I remember loving it. I would love to reread it sometime.

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  3. Hi, Clare! Have we met before? I’m Naz. I’m trying to get to know more of the book blogs I follow and this book review caught my attention.
    I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never read The God of Small Things, despite its prestige and how often it’s talked about and recommended. I just haven’t gotten around to it!
    It doesn’t sound like it’s a pleasure-read, but more of a serious one that we must savor and contemplate to enjoy fully. I do hope to read it sometime, perhaps later this year when I’m more in the mood for vividly intense and evocative imagery, as you say.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Hope to read more of your blog in the future.

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  4. The Papad

    I picked it up recently. Very well written, Every line in the book has a purpose. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

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  5. Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid

    I must have been living under a rock because I’ve never heard of this book! It’s clearly a classic, though!

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  6. Thanks for the review of this book. I just finished this year’s Man Booker Winner, the Vegetarian and was very disillusioned by the selection so nice to read your review of another year’s winner!

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    • Yes, the God of Small Things is definitely worth reading! The Vegetarian won the Man Booker International Prize which is a separate award for translated fiction. I enjoyed it although I preferred The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante.

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  7. I thought this was a good book too! I cried at the end of course 😦

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  8. I think this must have been published before I started writing a blog, but I certainly read it before it won the prize, at the time I think only the short list was being published so I would only have read the six or seven novels in the final choices. I loved this book, difficult and textured though it was, and culturally so completely ‘other’, but a wide window on to a narrow world.
    I am sorry that her campaigning has stopped the novel writing, though admire her dedication to resolving some of the problems that surround the people of India.

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  9. A friend and my daughter were saying how wonderful this is and I had to confess that I had put it down after a couple of chapters. I will give it another go.

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  10. One of my favorite books.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. lazydoodler

    This is one of my favourite books. I agree, it is not an easy read but is definately worth it. Do check out my post on the book as well!

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  12. Pingback: New Books Coming Soon in 2017 | A Little Blog of Books

  13. Pingback: The Man Booker Prize 2017 Longlist: Predictions, Possibilities and Preferences | A Little Blog of Books

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