Barbara's Reviews > The God of Small Things

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
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's review
Apr 06, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: asia
Recommended to Barbara by: Diane D. DeJoie
Read in May, 2011

My biggest problem with this book is how to rank it. I did not enjoy a good part of it. It is bleak, dispiriting and evokes a sense of impending disaster through much of the story. The reason I am in a quandary about my sense of this novel is that I was, simply stated, delighted by Roy's unique and wonderfully creative style of writing.

A brief synopsis of the plot will provide many examples of my ambivalence. This is the tale of a pair of near-genius, "two-egg" twin children and their eccentric and/or maladjusted family and neighbors in India. Roy informs the reader immediately that a young visiting cousin has died. Throughout the book there is some dark mystery associated with this.

Much of the narrative takes place around the river in their rural town. Roy related it in a fashion which meandered like the river which flows through this story. At times the language is playful, whimsical and humorous. For example: the twins were amusingly, amazingly adept at transposing words and letters in their speech, causing much consternation with the adults. Frequently Roy has fashioned words of several items linked together or completely invented them. When one of the children misbehaved, there were warnings to STOPPIT - So SHE STOPPITED ! Like the character of this river as it courses along, there were periods of darkness and upheaval which she marked by frequent capitalization of the words, also stressing their importance.

The author has drawn an eloquent picture of the culture and the people in this area. Smells, sights and emotions were vividly portrayed. Although it is not difficult to discuss positive aspects of her writing, I would say that this was not an easy book to read. One must devote time and thought to analyzing the numerous examples of symbolism throughout. It definitely has been worth my effort. Although I have stated that this novel was dark and depressing, I will rate it 4 stars based on Roy's writing, but preferably 3.5.
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Reading Progress

02/10/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-44 of 44) (44 new)

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message 1: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue I'll be interested what you think of this.

K.D. Absolutely I finished this last night. It was past midnight and I could not put the book down. I am now composing my review in my head. It should be 3, 4 or 5 stars.

Barbara I see that you are leaving your options open. I have not made too much progress because it's been a busy week for me.

Diane Wanted to check on how you are doing with it Barbara. It's a hard book to read if you're busy.

message 5: by Sue (last edited Apr 28, 2011 03:38PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue I agree Diane. I had my times with this book but ultimately liked it a lot. It does take concentration. I gave it 4 stars

Barbara Diane and Sue, I agree with both of you. It's not easy reading. She tends to meander a bit and my attention starts to flag. I discovered that you have to pay attention, though, because it all means something. I love how she plays with words- the combinations, the kidwords, the Capitals, etc. I hope that I finish it before it's due at the library. Maybe I can renew it.

message 7: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue I do think it's ultimately worth it.

Diane Yes, definitely worth the read.

Barbara Thanks, Friends!!

It is a glorious Spring Day here! This is our precious gift every year for the Miserable Winter!
Diane, you must remember this lovely season here!

message 10: by Diane (last edited Apr 29, 2011 02:55PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barbara, yes I do, the beginning of spring and also fall when leaves change into blooming autumn colors. We would drive up 93 north to see, and go apple picking.

message 11: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue Today has been absolutely glorious, the kind of day we wait for all winter.

Barbara It's amazing how the shrubs and trees have burst into flower almost overnight! I have had more pleasure looking at all of that than any part of the Royal Wedding!

message 13: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue Driving around today was really nice, but I have to say I though Kate was really beautiful and her gown was wonderfully simple and elegant. I watched some excerpts this evening on BBCAmerica.

Diane Sue and Barbara, I'm glad you had such a beutiful day. After the winter, you more than deserve it. Sue, I checked your profile and see that you are from Melrose. I used to live on Mt. Vernon Street for a little while.

message 15: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue Wow Diane, the world is so small. I live on Franklin Street now. I lived over by the hospital when I was little and over by Malvern Street through high school, then in the highlands where my mother lived until she died this past winter. I lived in Reading for about 30 years and moved back about 2 years ago. I see you are a bit younger than me so we wouldn't have known each other from school even if you grew up in Melrose.

You never know when and where you will run into someone from "home".

Diane I actually grew up in Malden, but moved to Melrose when I was in my late 20's. You mention the hospital - my mom is in the Golden Living Center now recovering from a broken ankle. I was just there last month....I went to Girls Catholic High School, and it's not there anymore. Yes, small world!

message 17: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue I have a brother who lives in Malden and a nephew who is on the Police Dept there.

message 18: by Diane (last edited Apr 30, 2011 08:13AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Where in Malden? I grew up on Pearl Street, parents still there.

Barbara You never know where you are going to meet someone who has some connection to you. We met a guy in San Francisco who recognized my husband from his prior business. In Jerusalem, we met a man who lived around the corner from where I grew up. We also met someone in TelAviv. I became friendly with a GR Friend who is the best friend of my cousin. They came to visit me from NJ last summer. Small World!!

message 20: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue My brother lives near Bell Rock on Meridian.

When I was in Ireland in the 70s with a friend from work I met someone from high school at the Rock of Cashel. And the world is even smaller now.

Diane Those are some crazy coincidences.
Sue, my parents are on Pearl st., so not near your brother I don't think.

message 22: by Sue (last edited Apr 30, 2011 04:27PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue Actually they are I believe. Pearl runs from Rte 60 to I'm not sure where it ends. My brother lives a block in from where Main meets Eastern Ave, on the same side of Main. I know they can walk to the T. Not more than half a mile. I go by Pearl every time I go to the dentist.

message 23: by Diane (last edited Apr 30, 2011 07:50PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Oh cool, Sue! I'm not familiar with that end of Malden anymore, but you're right, not too far at all :) I walk to the Malden T stop when I'm visiting my parents.

message 24: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue I live a short walk from the train line in Melrose and can switch over to the T at Malden if I want instead of riding all the way into North Station.

message 25: by K.D. (last edited May 03, 2011 04:56PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

K.D. Absolutely Nice review.

Spring oh my. That must really be a lovely weather you are having. The fact that you enjoyed looking at that compared to the Royal wedding. :)

Here in Manila, the temperature went up to 36 deg C (97F). I was perspiring the other night even while asleep! Ha ha. And we don't go out during lunch breaks anymore.

message 26: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue I like your review Barbara. I had exactly the same problem as you with the book....lovely writing and difficult story.

message 27: by Barbara (last edited May 04, 2011 11:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barbara Thanks, Sue. We seem to share many feelings about our reading!

Thank you also, KD. I am always happy that I live in area where we have 4 seasons. We had a miserable, snowy winter, but now we are having our reward. I really dislike hot weather.

message 28: by Diane (last edited May 04, 2011 05:24PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Hi Barbara, I am glad you stuck with the book. You are wonderful at writing reviews by the way. I think your description of 'bleak' and 'sense of impending disaster' are spot on. It is by far one of the darkest stories I have ever read, but I can't help but keep it on my 'favorites' shelf. It is so complex, and I thought the way Roy wove the story from present to past continually was brilliant. I promise to recommend something a little more 'uplifting' next time :)

message 29: by Barbara (last edited May 05, 2011 08:22AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barbara Thanks, Diane. It's OK to read something serious, but I kept having a feeling of dread while reading this. In spite of that, she managed to interject clever bits of humor, which I appreciated. She is a clever writer. Interesting that she did not produce more novels after this winner!

Diane Yeah, Barbara, this was it as far as novels by her. She did one other piece of non-fiction I believe, which I have not read.

message 31: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Lisa I read Harland's Half Acre way back when and loved it though I haven't read anything since :(. You're review makes me want to revisit Malouf.

message 32: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Cynthia wrote: "Lisa I read Harland's Half Acre way back when and loved it though I haven't read anything since :(. You're review makes me want to revisit Malouf." Harland is on my TBR, but I'm 'saving it up' for when I'm in a Malouf mood. You know, when you've read something awful, and you need a restorative book LOL.

Barbara Cynthia wrote: "Lisa I read Harland's Half Acre way back when and loved it though I haven't read anything since :(. You're review makes me want to revisit Malouf."

Am I missing something here? Where did Harland enter this picture? :)

message 34: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue I"ve been wondering the same thing!!

Diane LOL !! I did not want to say anything for fear of looking like I really missed the boat!

message 36: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Dang am I cornfuzed again?? Stick around and it'll happen some more.

Barbara In any case, C, you are always welcome to join in!

message 38: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia I need to keep track of my windows. I think I was trying to reply to Lisa who'd read another malouf.

Diane Hi Barbara!

Barbara Hi Diane!
This review keeps popping up. I am eager to read more by her, but I'm especially looking forward to Jhumpa Lahiri's latest book. She is a gem!

Diane I know Barbara, it's so funny how this keeps popping up! I bought The Lowland and also look forward to reading it.

message 42: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue The mystery of the rebounding reviews!

I'm looking forward to The Lowland too. I imagine many are.

Diane We'll have to watch for each other's reviews. I'm not sure when I'm going to get to it.

message 44: by Merilee (new)

Merilee I hope I haven't already said this here, but I could NOT BEAR Roy's cutesy wordplay. I love Nabokov and Barth et al but this book set my teeth on edge ( I know I'm in the minority on this).
I am, however, looking forward to the Lahiri.

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