Wastrel's Reviews > The God of Small Things

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
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Jan 09, 15

bookshelves: r-un, z-2010, brilliant, mundane-fiction
Read in September, 2010

A skillful and deeply moving first novel. Often described as post-colonial, that seems to me to be entirely missing the point. This is a very traditional tragedy - it explicitly nails its colours to the mast by declaring that great stories are those that don't surprise you. And throughout this novel, we know what is going to happen - not the details, perhaps, but the general shape of it. We just can't escape.

The story is told from two perspectives, across the decades that divide a young girl from a young woman, and it is this sense of the passing of time - masterfully portrayed in the prose, which varies between childish simplicity and sophisticated elegaic lament. It is almost magic realism in the strength and breadth of its metaphors - we can take it on faith that nothing supernatural is happening, but the narrator, particularly when inhabiting a child's eye, makes no such distinctions. The metaphors repeat - everything repeats and repeats, metaphors and turns of phrase, premonitions and reflections, building up a rich texture of meaning and dread through repetition and through variation. This is perhaps the first novel I've read where the old line from the wine-tasting branch of literary criticism, "this novel creates its own language", actually seems applicable.

Perhaps it's too annoyingly twee at times - too childish. Perhaps the repetition gets a bit boring now and then - certainly i found it less effecting and more affected on a re-read, armed with the knowledge of EXACTLY what was going to happen. On a re-read, I found it a little artificial.

That said, it's still extremely good. It's beautiful and striking, deep and yet instantly accessible, and horrifically moving.

And my full thoughts can be found HERE.
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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Cecily Post-colonial? I guess, maybe - but I think you're right: it misses the point. The colonial legacy is the context, not the story or its meaning. (I've just checked my own, longish review, and see I never mentioned the c word).


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