Teresa's Reviews > The God of Small Things

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
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Jun 21, 2015

really liked it
Read in May, 2011

4 and 1/2 stars

I admire this book: its structure, descriptive prose and portrayal of the children. One of the 'Two Things' (that's an allusion to the book) I heard about the novel before reading it was how sad and depressing it is. It is, especially in that the adults fail the children so spectacularly and, for the most part, intentionally (plus it's always hard to read of children as victims) but perhaps I've read so much sad, depressing fiction in my life that this one didn't stand out as more so. Or maybe it's because of the structure that states from the beginning that certain things have happened but leads you to the descriptions of these events slowly, as if it's bracing you for the intensity as you approach the 'Heart of Darkness.' Any time I wondered if the author was ever going to get to the alluded event, she did, and at the perfect time. Her wordplay (the other of the 'Two Things' I heard about the book beforehand) greatly alleviates the tragic elements. While we already know what ultimately happens to the couple at the end, I feel that the book ends on a positive note, as if these 'small things' are what need to be cherished.

An image of Velutha in Rahel's mind from the first chapter stayed with me throughout and had me paging back several times to reread it. A simple mother-son allusion near the end to something in the beginning was perhaps more heartbreaking to me than anything else. The different viewpoints are done well, and seamlessly.

I know a bit about the history of India, but I wish I knew more, as I believe this book can be read on more than one level. The pivotal year in the novel is 1969, which is when the Indian National Congress split into two factions (like two-egg twins?). Times are changing (with Marxism and Communism making some inroads) but not enough, as the government and religious and political organizations continue to fail individuals, the 'small things', paralleling the adults' failing the children.

As I finished the book, I was reminded of a conversation I had the other day with a GR friend, in which I quoted Richard Ford. Ford was talking of racism in Mississippi, but it could apply to the caste system in India as well. He said, "[Mississippi] has so many writers, because it has so much to explain." At the same talk, he also said this of Faulkner's work: "[It] burns with the absurdity and incongruity of racism." I think Roy's novel also burns with this.
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Reading Progress

02/24 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-22 of 22) (22 new)

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K.D. Absolutely Hmmm. Interesting take, T. I see your point on the positive ending. I just did not feel that way when I finished reading the book. :)

This means that Roy is a good writer. Her work can be interpreted in several ways and her readers could have different take away from it. I think that's because we bring in our own experiences when we read.


message 2: by Teresa (last edited May 20, 2011 03:22PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Teresa K.D. wrote: "This means that Roy is a good writer. Her work can be interpreted in several ways and her readers could have different take away from it. "

Judging by this book, I'd say that she is. I wasn't surprised to read in your review that it took her four years or so to write it -- it's a dense book, and I mean that in a good way.


message 3: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Ya had to do it didn't you? Add another book to my tbr pile?

Excellent review. And I love Ford's words.


Teresa Cynthia wrote: "Ya had to do it didn't you? Add another book to my tbr pile?

Excellent review. And I love Ford's words."


Thanks, Cynthia. I'm still living with the book, even though I finished last night -- always the sign of an excellent book for me.


message 5: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia That's a good test. If a book stays with you it means something....or as you say is excellent. Now stop adding to my book reading list.


message 6: by James (new)

James Murphy Hey, liked the review, Teresa. I remember liking this novel a lot and have kept it in the back of my mind. Your review makes me want to read it again so that I'm pushing it to the front of my mind.


message 7: by Teresa (last edited May 21, 2011 09:36AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Teresa Cynthia wrote: "Now stop adding to my book reading list."

My GR friends with their varying reviews on this book is what prompted me to push it to the front of my reading 'schedule.' I've always liked books set in India ("The Raj Quartet" and "A Fine Balance," for example) and had put this one off only because of negative things I'd heard when it won the Booker. I shouldn't have done that!


Teresa James wrote: "Hey, liked the review, Teresa. I remember liking this novel a lot and have kept it in the back of my mind. Your review makes me want to read it again so that I'm pushing it to the front of my mind."

Thanks, Murph!


Lisa Nice review, Teresa, and I agree with KD too, multi-facetted works lend themselves to varied interpretations!


message 10: by Teresa (last edited May 21, 2011 10:37AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Teresa Lisa wrote: "Nice review, Teresa, and I agree with KD too, multi-facetted works lend themselves to varied interpretations!"

Thanks, Lisa. Yes, as I think you wrote in your review, it would make for a great group discussion book.


message 11: by Merilee (new)

Merilee Excellent review, Teresa, and love the Ford quote (but then I like everything about Ford;-) That said, I am one of the only people I know who could barely finish this book. I love most books about India (Raj Quartet, Mistry, Siege of Krishnapur) and was not turned off by all the horror (although it certainly turned my stomach), but I found the writing excrutiatingly (what's wrong with this spelling??) cutesy, that of someone trying way too hard to be poetic (unlike Ondaatje and Anne Michaels, for example, who just are poetic). If she through one more simile into a paragraph I was going to scream!! But, I realize I am in the minority on this one, and hate to be a wet blanket...That said, I thought the cover was gorgeous...


Teresa Merilee wrote: "Excellent review, Teresa, ... I found the writing excrutiatingly (what's wrong with this spelling??) cutesy, that of someone trying way too hard to be poetic (unlike Ondaatje and Anne Michaels, for example, who just are poetic). If she through one more simile into a paragraph I was going to scream!!"

Thanks, Merilee.

While I liked the descriptive prose, I do remember a couple times, just a couple times, thinking she was being too repetitive with it, which is why she didn't get 5 stars from me.


message 13: by Merilee (new)

Merilee excruciating, there, that's how it's spelled...I think this spellcheck is new for GR.


message 14: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue wonderful review Teresa. I really like your comparison of the duality of the Indian Congress with the "two-egg twins". And the quotes from Ford about racism and Mississippi and Faulkner were great. All this added to my experience of the book a bit more.

I agree about needing to learn more about India but I also know I need to find the right vehicles.


·Karen· Just like Murph, I remember reading and liking this a lot and thinking it needs a re-read. Maybe we should propose it as a read on one of the bookgroups?


Teresa Sue wrote: "wonderful review Teresa. ... I agree about needing to learn more about India but I also know I need to find the right vehicles. "

Thanks, Sue! Have you read any other fiction set in India? I think if I hadn't already, I may not have appreciated this book as much.


Barbara Beautiful, thorough review, Teresa! I suspected that you would feel as I did about this book.


message 18: by Teresa (last edited May 23, 2011 03:50PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Teresa Barbara wrote: "Beautiful, thorough review, Teresa!"

Thanks, Barbara.

After all the well-thought-out reviews by so many of my GR friends, I just had to read it.


Barbara I think it's good to see the different nuances that each of us picks out. There is actually so much to say about the book.


message 20: by Dolors (last edited Apr 09, 2014 05:06AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dolors "I know a bit about the history of India, but I wish I knew more, as I believe this book can be read on more than one level."
Exactly Teresa, that's precisely my feeling after having read this novel. I was mostly taken by the form in which the plot was unfolded and by Roy's eerie lyricism but I got lost in the political undercurrents that soaked the whole story, even though I could detect outrage and rage encapsulated in Roy's voice. I need to further investigate her non-fiction works to try to place the novel in a historical frame.


Cecily A lovely review.

Like you, I didn't find it depressing, despite some of the awful things that happen. There is too much beauty there as well. A clever balance.


Teresa Thank you, Cecily. I'm not sure why I didn't give it that extra 1/2 star to make it 5, as I still remember so much of it. It made a big impact on me.


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