The God of Small Things: a book review

I love, love, love books! My intent when I started my blog was to post a review on all the books I read while in India. Right now I am really far behind! What better time to start than now, when I will be flying to Kerala in a few hours and the first book I have chosen to review is set in Kerala. The God of Small Things is a bit hard to write about if you don’t want to spill the beans. There’s a big ole thing that happens first off, but Roy doesn’t give you the details until half-way through the book. I enjoyed the waiting, the wondering. Is it this chapter? Or the next?

So we are off to Kerala, Cochin to be exact. I’ve planned a little side trip to Munnar but we will need to cut it short due to my husband’s last minute invitation to speak at a school. He’s now got another state to add to his list!

Speaking of my husband, he’s had some tech problems the last few days. That can really suck. He’s also been bored. I’ve wanted to tell him to go walk the ghats, find a new neighborhood, like he was doing before. Go down and swing, let the monkeys chase you. Play your banjo on the Ganga again. Something. Maybe I want him to get out because I’ve been tied in? Hopefully this little trip will get him going, will give him a boost. I know I plan to be productive$ on the day of his talk. Hmmm, Debbie, maybe outfit #1 of 5 comes from Kerala?

DSC_0490 copy

The God of Small Things, a gift from my son, I can still feel this book, weeks after devouring it. Roy is a superb writer. She allowed me to take in so much: the sounds, the river, the house, the boat, the movie theater. The pain, fear, anguish, jealousy and (sometimes) forbidden love displayed by the characters. A recurring theme: there is a cost for love; break the Love Rules and you will pay dearly.

In the state of Kerala, on the southern tip of India, a dark, exotic, seductive story about fraternal twins Esthappen and Rahel and their family unfolds. A tragedy. The story is written during two time frames, one in 1969 when the twins are 7 and the other, 23 years later. The twins live with their mother, Ammu, their blind grandmother, Mammachi, their beloved uncle, Chacko, and their maternal grand aunt, Baby Kochamma who, although family, is portrayed as their enemy. Through her melancholy, lyrical and clever prose, Roy introduces us to the dank and dark: corruption, jealousy, abandonment, the caste system, sexual impropriety and mental illness. Her metaphors are supreme; the one involving a moth still lives in my brain. The story begins at the end and ends midway through the book. This is not a book to breeze through lightly, but to be devoured, beautiful by beautiful word. Roy is so very clever. A rule breaker. I didn’t want it to end. I found myself looking forward to each time I could pick it up. Before I’d begin to read, the memory alone of the previous pages brought me back to a haunting and tactile place. Even now, as I write this, I’m taken back to a raw, erotic and tragic story that I can both still feel and see.

The lives of the twins are forever changed with the arrival of their uncle’s daughter, Sophie, from England. A horrific event soon follows Sophie’s entrance into India, shattering the lives of several of the characters. The pivitol point begins here and spreads out like a veil of death (literally), permeating all those in its path. The history of the other characters is both rich and graphic and Roy intertwines the two time periods as a seasoned writer should. This is a book that needs to be read and then read again.

I noticed something interesting after reading The God of Small Things. There seemed to be an invisible bond between myself and Roy. I got her. I found her book to be comfortable and familiar despite the odd grammar and sentence structure, the changing time frame and complex metaphors. It was after about two weeks that I realized why the book felt so familiar to me: we had something in common-a rhythm to our writing, a breaking of the rules, odd stuff. I’d been trying to peg her style, it seemed an odd one, with bits and pieces resembling various genres. I realized mine does as well. There’s no suggestion here that I mirror an outstanding writer, it’s just that, in a small way, we have something in common, an offbeat style.

 

I love books

I love books! Memories of ‘Dick and Jane’ still float around in my head from White Rock Elementary in Dallas, TX. I’ll never forget my first visit to the little library in Royse City (where our ranch was located),  checking out ‘Black Beauty’. The image of that slick hardcover book is etched in my brain, permanent as a scar. This move to India is expanding my world in many ways. I’ve been collecting both Indian authors and books written about India. A suitcase of those books sits packed, awaiting the flight to India. I want to share my love of these books on a topic new and exciting to me. Here is where you can read reviews, offer comments and other book suggestions.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. MartinA Dance with Dragons