The God of Small Things – A Review

My mum loved this book which meant my feelings could go one of two ways – sometimes we really agree on a good book and sometimes one or other of us can love a book and the other doesn’t feel it. This time it was the latter.

At one point I thought this book was really going to go somewhere – I had it being The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns – where this dramatic turn of events would change things forever. And that does actually happen. But the way the plot was developed just didn’t work in building this – well not for me anyway.

I think part of the reason the plot development didn’t work well for me is because it dots around a lot – it moves between different narratives too. The reader is taken to different times in the chronology events in the lives of two-egg twins Rahel and Estha who live in Ayemenem in India with their mother, uncle, grandmother and great Aunt. But it also dips in and out of the history of lives of some of these characters too. Whilst that in itself isn’t too strange a thing to do, I felt it interrupted the flow somewhat. You’d just be getting to a really interesting part of the plot – like the visit to the airport with a trip to see The Sound of Music, and a shocking occurrence with the OrangeDrinkLemonDrink Man, when you would suddenly get given an exert or a glimpse into the future dramatic/life-changing events. Now this is great for building your interest in finding out what this dramatic twist in events will turn out to be…. Except that this method of story building is used over so many times in this novel, that by the time we get to the event happening there isn’t really much to say about it.

It felt to me like every time the story skipped to the life-changing event (known as The Terror) that we were going to be going into the full description this time and that the rest of the story might be about how the characters recovered from it. We do get details of the aftermath – again, often told in pieces separated out around the rest of the plot – so it just didn’t quite work how I felt I wanted it to.

All in all it just felt too jumpy (around the plot) for me to be able to get into the flow of it for the entirety. The point at which I decided I couldn’t cope with this style of writing anymore was when I came to the section about the kathakali – whilst I realize that this section contains themes related to The Terror and is a sort of metaphor of the tragedies the family have experienced, I decided to just completely skip it. A few paragraphs in I just turned the pages to get past it. I hardly EVER do that when I’m reading a book. Firstly without looking up what kathakali was I lost as to what the heck was going on. And having felt asthough my patience was already wearing thin waiting to get to the pinnacle of the story I just didn’t have the capacity to read through this… indulgence. I’m sure many who love this book would think that is sacrilege… I get it, I do – but I was already losing with this book by then.

And that really is a great shame, because the subject is interesting, the characters are beautifully portrayed and the author (Arundhati Roy) has a stunningly unique style in her descriptions. If you don’t pay attention early on then descriptions and themes will mean less to you, and in some ways there is so many quirky illustrations written into the content that sometimes it can be exhausting. Whilst the observations she makes are conveyed with magnificent expressive capability, they drown the flow of the narrative. One saving grace is that she takes some of the original descriptions of things – e.g. orangedrinklemondrink man, Fountain of Love-in-Tokyo and Elvis the Pelvis etc. – and uses them repetitively throughout which does help with character growth and with not feeling QUITE so lost in the description and plot-bounciness sometimes.

Personally, not a book I could love, and I felt sad about that – so maybe I’ll try it again in a few years. Maybe I won’t…

Advice – if you’re going to read this book – use a glossary – this one will help:…


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