Wednesday, October 10, 2012


 The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Harper Collins Publishers, 1998

The first thing I noticed about The God of Small Things was lushness—the lushness of India’s setting and the lushness of a multitude of striking images created with unexpected metaphor. Arundhati Roy writes prose that begs the reader to pick it up, examine it to appreciate all its facets and read it again.

It was raining when Rahel came back to Ayemenen. Slanting silver ropes slammed into loose earth, plowing it up like gunfire.

It’s a book that begs the reader to keep a notebook handy to record images:

It could be argued that it began long before Christianity arrived in a boat and seeped into Kerala like tea from a teabag.

That expression on Ammu’s face. Like a rogue piece in a puzzle. Like a question mark that drifted through the pages of a book and never settled at the end of a sentence.

The gray sky curdled, and the clouds resolved themselves into little lumps, like substandard mattress stuffing.

In addition to delicious prose, The God of Small Things delivers a haunting story and makes a definite statement about the caste system. The history of a family is played out against the background of a changing India. Two twins, Rahel and Estha, provide the principle lens through which we view the story. However, each character’s point of view enriches it.

Throughout this novel, Roy tantalizes the reader with a sense of impending doom. One aspect of this doom is revealed early on, but each character’s part in it is held back until the end.  Roy entices the reader onward with well-placed hints about the future. She closes the story with the fateful love scene between two members of different castes.

The New York Times called this book “Faulknerian in its ambitious tackling of family and race and class, Dickensian in its sharp-eyed observation of society and character.”

Reading about author Arundhati Roy in an interview in Progressive Magazine is as moving as reading her novel. She donated her Booker prize money to a grass roots organization trying to stop the creation of dams in India that threaten the homes and livelihoods of millions. Roy writes what she believes. She says "...fiction is the truest thing there ever was. ...The writer is the midwife of understanding."


  1. Sounds wonderful. I also love to keep a journal to jot down images and such from my readings. Some authors have such talent that I want to hold onto it.

    1. Definitely true! The act of recording beautiful language carries over into our own writing, I think.

  2. What incredible images. Thank you for sharing this book, Joyce.

    My november post for Janice Hardy's blog will be about poetic images in fiction. These excerpts (and I'm sure the entire book) certainly stand the test of time, so I'd love to include a link to this post if that's all right with you!

    1. Hi Robyn. Of course you may link to the post. I would be honored. Roy's writing is filled with poetic images that are so fresh. That unexpected comparison is not so easy to achieve, and she is a master.

    2. Thank you, Joyce! The examples you chose to feature here are just wonderful.

  3. Hi Joyce, I've heard so much about this book and I've seen this more than once in bargain bookstores, but I haven't had the chance to pick it up yet. Your review made me want to go find the book NOW. I know Arundhati Roy writes in exquisite prose and I'm glad that you also shared those lovely quotes from the book. :)


Comments welcome.