‘It was the time when the unthinkable became thinkable, and the impossible really happened…Love, Madness, Hope, Infinite Joy.’- The God of Small Things
‘The God of Small Things’ by Indian author and political activist Arundhati Roy is a book I’ve mentioned before on my blog, and there’s a reason for that. Being an English student, I’ve read a lot, but this is without a doubt the single most thought provoking and heartfelt books I have ever read.
The novel follows, in its unique and carefully crafted non-linear narrative, the lives of the Ipe family in India, focusing on Estha and Rahel, two twins who have a ‘Siamese soul’, thus sharing each other’s emotions and thoughts. The family endures great losses and tragedy which is captured through the eyes of the young twins making it all the more heartbreaking and moving. The tragedy is carefully unravelled throughout the novel with layers of the mystery being gradually peeled away and hints being dropped throughout the novel about the events that have so deeply scarred the twins, which not only makes this novel a compelling read, but illustrates Roy’s skills as a writer. In fact, Roy’s literacy skills are incredible, with her beautiful use of imagery and description, particularly of the setting of the house and river in Ayemenem, Kerela, and her unusual structure that almost acts as Rahel’s stream of consciousness even though the novel is in third person. She also cleverly alters the tone when the novel is being told through a different characters perspective, particularly seen when Comrade Pillai is the focus; the language alters so it is clear that story is being told through his view point rather than Rahel’s, which is a skill that not many writers have, especially when writing a third person novel.
Another key aspect of the book is the conflict between the big and the small, i.e. a country as a whole, and the small lives within it, and how they both intertwine and impact each other. The novel is a great criticism of the inhumane caste system in India, where those who do jobs that are considered to be ‘dirty’ are branded untouchable and are cast out from the rest of society, and although this is a decision of the higher powers, it affects the small lives of the twins who’s family have been ruined by these laws. I have never read a text before that has so beautifully explored the individual lives of those considered to be small by the higher powers, and I strongly admire how Roy has spoken out against the caste system in India when doing so puts her in a vulnerable position.
Arundhati Roy herself is probably part of the reason why I love this book so much. Roy is an environmental and political activist in India, not to mention a voice for all those oppressed women in the country. She has persistantly campaigned against the destruction of the capitalist system and the industrialisation of India which is threatening many traditional villages and communities, and even though this has resulted in her arrest on multiple occasions she continues to speak out for what she, and millions of oppressed voices, believe in. She is also a feminist and her character Ammu in the novel is a reflection of this, with her headstrong personality and fearless attitude. I am reluctant to support authors, or anyone famous, if I do not agree with their morals (particularly their views on women and minorities), however I am proud to support this woman who is not only talented, but is doing incredible work for those small lives in India.
I hadn’t heard of this novel until I saw it on our recommended reading list for English, and I’m so glad I did read it. This book is the most true portrayal of the evil and good within society, and individual lives, and I would recommend it to anyone.
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