Samadrita's Reviews > The God of Small Things

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
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As I stand just outside the compound with the untended garden - an uninvited, random visitor - the darkened Ayemenem House resembles a haunted mansion, belying the truth of the lives it once nurtured with maternal protectiveness in its cozy interiors. Derelict. Abandoned. Forgotten.
But I remember. I remember the lives lived, and the loves which were birthed by circumstances, loves which breathed for a while before perishing on the altar of conformity.
I remember Chacko and Sophie Mol. Ammu and Velutha. Rahel and Estha.

And, most of all, I remember You. You, the painter of this portrait of a family's downward spiral into oblivion. You, the creator of this life-sized painting of a city and a nation, and all of human civilization in turn.
I see You as an iconoclast, persistent in your demand for liberties we are too submissive to dream of acquiring. You ask for things so heedlessly, so powerfully. The right to love whom we want and how much we want. The right to be equal. The right not to be discriminated against. The right not to be left languishing in solitude, battling painful memories. The right not to lose, at any cost, one's faith in the goodness in human beings.
You are the rebel we never considered becoming. We do not have courage like yours you see.
(Your opinions aired on national television are so often misinterpreted. Deliberately. Craftily.)

The sun inside of You that refuses to be subdued by the drear of political machinations, by the evil lurking in the human heart, by the sham of 'development' perpetrated under the helpful charade of nonexistent liberty, equality, fraternity, by every one saying 'No no no, you ask for too much. The world cannot ever be a fair place.', sent a little light my way.
That light gives me hope. Your Small God gives me hope.

He augurs that the overlooked small, mundane cruelties will only snowball into a tragedy of life-altering proportions later on, a gigantic boulder hurtling down the slope of a mountain crushing everything in its path into an unrecognizable gory pulp of flesh and blood. Small God's wrath will eventually consume Big God's apathy and reduce it to mere cinders.
I hope your Small God is right.

You speak the esoteric language of children, whose inner worlds are but their own, beyond the reach of the sharpened claws of the Love Laws - worlds which are free and infinite, where fables, dreams and terrifying realities churn into a nonsensical lovely mass, worlds not tethered to earthly considerations. The two-egg twins' interlinked worlds, which stubbornly rejected the continued tyranny of the cycle of injustices perpetuated outside, were the same.
Their combined muteness throbbed with the dull ache of longing, loss and irreparable damage. Their collective passivity stood out as a blistering denouncement of humanity always coming second to zealously preserved blind prejudices. And You spoke through Rahel and Estha's silence which rung much louder than a giant church bell chiming away nearby.

We stew in our own insecurities and the irrelevance of small personal outrages, unable to take a step forward, helpless captives in the iron grip of the status quo of the world. While You, Ms Roy, take up your pen and fearlessly hail The God of Human Dignity, Empathy and Love - The God of Small Things.

So in this space, I thank that God for the Arundhati Roys of the world.
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Quotes Samadrita Liked

Arundhati Roy
“And the air was full of Thoughts and Things to Say. But at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. Big Things lurk unsaid inside.”
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Arundhati Roy
“Change is one thing. Acceptance is another.”
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Arundhati Roy
“Perhaps it’s true that things can change in a day. That a few dozen hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes. And that when they do, those few dozen hours, like the salvaged remains of a burned house—the charred clock, the singed photograph, the scorched furniture—must be resurrected from the ruins and examined. Preserved. Accounted for. Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Imbued with new meaning. Suddenly they become the bleached bones of a story.”
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Arundhati Roy
“If you're happy in a dream, does that count?”
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Arundhati Roy
“Nothing mattered much. Nothing much mattered. And the less it mattered the less it mattered. It was never important enough. Because Worse Things had happened. In the country that she came from poised forever between the terror of war and the horror of peace Worse Things kept happening”
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Arundhati Roy
“Some things come with their own punishments.”
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Arundhati Roy
“And when we look in through the windows, all we see are shadows. And when we try and listen, all we hear is a whispering. And we cannot understand the whispering, because our minds have been invaded by a war. A war that we have both won and lost. The very worst sort of war. A war that captures dreams and re-dreams them. A war that has made us adore our conquerors and despise ourselves.”
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Arundhati Roy
“People always loved best what they identified most with.”
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Arundhati Roy
“Impelled by feelings that were primal yet paradoxically wholly impersonal. Feelings of contempt born of inchoate, unacknowledged fear--civilization's fear of nature, men's fear of women, power's fear of powerlessness. Man's subliminal urge to destroy what he could neither subdue nor deify.”
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things


Reading Progress

January 25, 2014 – Started Reading
January 25, 2014 – Shelved
January 25, 2014 – Shelved as: 1001-and-more
January 25, 2014 – Shelved as: asian-literature
January 25, 2014 – Shelved as: by-women-who-matter
January 25, 2014 – Shelved as: india
January 25, 2014 – Shelved as: man-booker-prize
January 25, 2014 –
5.0% ""It is curious how sometimes the memory of death lives on for so much longer than the memory of the life that it purloined.""
January 25, 2014 – Shelved as: melancholia
January 25, 2014 –
6.0% ""He didn't know that in some places, like the country that Rahel came from, various kinds of despair competed for primacy. And that personal despair could never be desperate enough." - I haven't read a better pair of sentences summarizing the conundrum that is India."
January 27, 2014 –
10.0% ""Perhaps it's true that things can change in a day. That a few dozen hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes. And that when they do, those few dozen hours, like the salvaged remains of a burned house-the charred clock, the singed photograph, the scorched furniture-must be resurrected from the ruins and examined. Preserved. Accounted for.""
January 27, 2014 –
20.0% ""Structurally-this somewhat rudimentary argument went-Marxism was a simple substitute for Christianity. Replace God with Marx, Satan with bourgeoisie, Heaven with a classless society, the Church with the Party, and the form and purpose of the journey remained similar. An obstacle race, with a prize at the end.""
January 28, 2014 –
53.0% ""History's fiends returned to claim them. To re-wrap them in its old, scarred pelt and drag them back to where they really lived. Where the Love Laws lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much.""
January 29, 2014 –
69.0% ""The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don't deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don't surprise you with the unforeseen. They are familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover's skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don't.""
January 29, 2014 – Shelved as: human-drama
January 29, 2014 –
91.0% ""The twins were too young to know that these were only history's henchmen. Sent to square the books and collect the dues from those who broke its laws. Impelled by feelings that were primal yet paradoxically wholly impersonal. Feelings of contempt born of inchoate, unacknowledged fear-civilization's fear of nature, men's fear of women, power's fear of powerlessness.""
January 29, 2014 – Shelved as: tear-jerkers
January 29, 2014 – Shelved as: cherished
January 29, 2014 – Shelved as: adoration
January 29, 2014 – Finished Reading
August 20, 2014 – Shelved as: don-t-melt-my-melting-pot
August 26, 2014 – Shelved as: social-justice
August 26, 2014 – Shelved as: sociology

Comments Showing 1-50 of 59 (59 new)


Praj Thanks for such erudite review. It has been ages since I have read this book, so thank you once again for unearthing one of the most deciding book of one of my favourite authors.


Erwin Wow! Great review! I have to reread this one for sure! It has been a long time ago.


message 3: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 29, 2014 08:37AM) (new)

You speak the esoteric language of children ... Their combined muteness throbbed with the dull ache of longing, loss and irreparable damage. Their collective passivity stood out as a blistering denouncement of humanity always coming second to zealously cherished blind prejudices. And You spoke through Rahel and Estha's silence which rung much louder than a giant church bell chiming away at a great distance.

Beautiful, beautiful review.

I don't think you could have put the experience of reading this book any better.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

It's been five months - not too early for me to read it again? ;)


Samadrita Praj wrote: "Thanks for such erudite review. It has been ages since I have read this book, so thank you once again for unearthing one of the most deciding book of one of my favourite authors."

I cannot believe I read it so late. Glad you liked it, Praj.


Samadrita Erwin wrote: "Wow! Great review! I have to reread this one for sure! It has been a long time ago."

Thank you, Erwin. May you have a great time, re-reading.


Samadrita Lauren wrote: "You speak the esoteric language of children ... Their combined muteness throbbed with the dull ache of longing, loss and irreparable damage. Their collective passivity stood out as a blistering den..."

Aww thank you, Lauren. It was mainly Aubrey and you, who pushed me to read an author I had steadily ignored for a long time. Now to read her essays.

And 5 months seem like a long enough gap between successive readings. :)


Garima And in this space, I thank YOU for this beautiful, heartfelt and awesome piece of writing. Great review, Samadrita which shook me and told in a potent voice - Now you better read the book again, Garima. High Time.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm really curious about her essays. Look forward to seeing what you think of them.

Garima wrote: "And in this space, I thank YOU for this beautiful, heartfelt and awesome piece of writing. Great review, Samadrita which shook me and told in a potent voice - Now you better read the book again, Ga..."

High time indeed.


message 10: by Ema (last edited Jan 29, 2014 09:15AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ema I love the haunting, ode-like tone in this review, Samadrita. I see You as an iconoclast, persistent in your demand for liberties we are too submissive to dream of acquiring. beautifully put... But I will have to read this novel myself to better understand the ode you sing to Arundhati Roy and, maybe, to the God of Small Things...
As it happens, I do have this novel in my library.


Aubrey If you haven't heard already, Samadrita, Roy's working on her second novel.

*flails*


message 12: by Lynne (new) - added it

Lynne King Well after your rather splendid review Samadrita, it looks as though another book is going to see the light of day with me!


Samadrita Garima wrote: "And in this space, I thank YOU for this beautiful, heartfelt and awesome piece of writing. Great review, Samadrita which shook me and told in a potent voice - Now you better read the book again, Ga..."

You must, Garima. Your review will be a treat to look out for. Thank you for your kind words as ever.


Wastrel Aubrey wrote: "If you haven't heard already, Samadrita, Roy's working on her second novel.

*flails*"


That was my reaction too... unfortunately, it was about six or seven years ago! I don't know whether she's still working on the same one, or whether she gave up, took a break, and is now back working on another, but I won't get my hopes up until I see the thing in print...

Anyway, on the book, if I had a criticism it would be that it didn't hold up for me quite as well on a re-read, both because I knew the plot in advance (and I felt that a lot of the book is about maintaining a tense anticipation, rather than about things happening, so knowing the end in advance spoiled the anticipation), and because sometimes, particularly with the child POVs, Roy's writing is a little predictable and affected - I didn't feel that the first time, because I was bowled over by the originality and beauty of it, but a second, more critical and less emotional, reading of it, let me see a little bit too much of how it seemed to work behind the scenes, as it were.

But that's quibbling, really, because even on the re-read I still gave it five stars. I just didn't love it quite as much.

Despite that, I think that everybody should read it - it's one of the books I recommend most frequently.


Samadrita Ema wrote: "I love the haunting, ode-like tone in this review, Samadrita. I see You as an iconoclast, persistent in your demand for liberties we are too submissive to dream of acquiring. beautifully put... But..."

Yes you must read this, Ema. This will not only give you an accurate picture of the Indian landscape - social, political and religious. But recount a very heart-breaking but humane tale of love, loss and grief. Ms Roy has a firm grasp on Indian realities and her impeccable prose will charm you in no time.


Aubrey Wastrel wrote: "Aubrey wrote: "If you haven't heard already, Samadrita, Roy's working on her second novel.

*flails*"

That was my reaction too... unfortunately, it was about six or seven years ago! I don't know w..."


Well, this article popped up about three months ago, so perhaps there's hope: http://www.thehindu.com/books/books-a...


Samadrita Aubrey wrote: "If you haven't heard already, Samadrita, Roy's working on her second novel.

*flails*"


I did hear about it a few weeks back. But I am not putting my faith in that news lest it turns out to be a hoax or rumor in the end. Just recently, Vikram Seth returned his advance payment to Penguin Publishers because he did not finish the sequel to A Suitable Boy on time.
I won't believe in this news until I see the book published.
But, for the moment, I am keeping my fingers crossed and trying my best not to flail. :)


Samadrita Lynne wrote: "Well after your rather splendid review Samadrita, it looks as though another book is going to see the light of day with me!"

I hope you enjoy it, Lynne. This contains a rather tragic and tear-jerking tale but the narrative is designed in an ingenious way and the prose is par excellence.


Wastrel Samadrita: "...a very heart-breaking but humane tale of love, loss and grief."

And don't forget (saddest of all) joy!

"Love. Madness. Hope. Infinite joy.”
Of the four things that were Possible in Human Nature, Rahel thought that Infinnate Joy sounded the saddest. Perhaps because of the way Chacko said it.
Infinnate Joy. With a church sound to it.



Samadrita Wastrel wrote: "And don't forget (saddest of all) joy!"

That too.


message 21: by Ema (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ema Samadrita wrote: "Yes you must read this, Ema. This will not only give you an accurate picture of the Indian landscape - social, political and religious."

If you say this novel will leave me with an accurate view of the Indian world, and if you, as a part of that world, think this is such a great read, then I will definitely move it up on my reading list. Thank you, Sam.


Nandakishore Varma I did not love the book but I loved your review.


Samadrita @Ema:-Hope you have an enjoyable time with the book.

Nandakishore wrote: "I did not love the book but I loved your review."

I am glad you liked it. :) what made you give only 2 stars though?


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

Jr Bacdayan I really loved this book, even attempted to make a review of it, but I couldn't capture that fragile essence, so I abandoned it. Where I failed, you succeeded. Such a powerful review, Samadrita. I couldn't shake that same feeling I had when I read this book. Vividly captured, superbly written. Only from one of the best reviewers of this site can something like this be produced. Salute.


Himanshu Such an amazing review Samadrita! I read this book a long time back and after reading your review it feels like I've missed a lot because of my amateurish attempt. Will definitely re-read. Thanks!


message 26: by Basuhi (last edited Jan 29, 2014 10:47PM) (new) - added it

Basuhi Your reviews incite a puerile jealousy in me, that makes me want to throw a tantrum and scream, I want to write like that.


Navaneeta I second Basuhi. Your reviews are always, always so beautiful.


message 28: by Dolors (last edited Jan 30, 2014 12:38AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dolors "The right to love whom we want and how much we want. The right to be equal. The right not to be discriminated against. The right not to be left languishing in solitude, battling painful memories."

Samadrita you write straight from the gut, and if words were handwritten in paper they'd have a tinge of crimson, for it's your blood boiling and your soul poured overflowing in each one of them. Your endorsement of this famous novel is enough stimuli for me to have pressed the buy-button. I have had this novel in my radar for ages and after having read Vikram Seth and Robinson Mistry I think it's high time I listened to the voice of a female Indian writer. Thank you for giving me the lacking impulse to finally buy this novel. I have no adjectives left to praise your writing, let's just say that you move me beyond words.


S.Ach If you haven't already, then you should write a book, so that we can say, "I thank that God for the Samadritas of the world."


Samadrita Jr wrote: "I really loved this book, even attempted to make a review of it, but I couldn't capture that fragile essence, so I abandoned it. Where I failed, you succeeded. Such a powerful review, Samadrita. I ..."

That's very generous of you to say, Jr. I am glad you liked it so much. There were other ways I could write this review. But I just had to write this the way I did.


Samadrita Himanshu wrote: "Such an amazing review Samadrita! I read this book a long time back and after reading your review it feels like I've missed a lot because of my amateurish attempt. Will definitely re-read. Thanks!"

I hope you have a better experience re-reading the book, Himanshu. Thank you for reading.


Samadrita Basuhi wrote: "Your reviews incite a puerile jealousy in me, that makes me want to throw a tantrum and scream, I want to write like that."

Aww you already write so very well, Basuhi. And there's the advantage of time on your side which you can use to further better your style.

@Navaneeta:-Glad you liked it. I find your reviews very beautifully written as well.


Samadrita Dolors wrote: ""The right to love whom we want and how much we want. The right to be equal. The right not to be discriminated against. The right not to be left languishing in solitude, battling painful memories."..."

And inspite of being Indian, I have neither read Vikram Seth nor Rohinton Mistry yet. I should be ashamed of myself as a reader. Your words have always served as wonderful encouragement, Dolors. And adjectives do not matter. I hope you have a rip-roaring rendezvous with Roy's brilliant debut novel.


Samadrita Sujeet wrote: "If you haven't already, then you should write a book, so that we can say, "I thank that God for the Samadritas of the world.""

That's extremely generous of you to say. I am glad you liked the review so much.


message 35: by Tej (last edited Jan 30, 2014 05:10AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tej helpless captives in the iron grip of the status quo of the world

This is the reason, that in the culture I or we belong to, anything that is picked up for the simple reason of reading it, is looked with scorn and anxiety of the unknown because in the meaningless existence do we deliberately ensconce ourselves and then percolate that helplessness to innumerable rungs down the ladder. Its all about the business, politics or diplomacy of it all, when the meaning lies somewhere beyond, but it takes courage and desire to really LIVE and not just go along the safest trajectory... the risk of being left alone, abandoned and pariahed... the risk of an existence of drudgery and scorn... thorns and pain instead of roses and pleasure!
I still remember the way I shrivelled along with the words that formed the epiphany of this very accesible yet gut wrenching tale of as you said so well 'small things', the underdog, the 'grit' and Davids of these Goliathan run world... Absolutely loved this heart-warming piece of writing, Thank you :)


Kalliope Good to see a positive review on this one. With me, it just did not click. There was something in the tone...


Samadrita Tej wrote: "helpless captives in the iron grip of the status quo of the world

This is the reason, that in the culture I or we belong to, anything that is picked up for the simple reason of reading it, is look..."


I want to quote parts of your comment and respond to each one of them. But I won't since I agree with all of it and whole-heartedly. So why be redundant?
Thank you for reading, Tej. And thank you for believing that it's not always 'about the business, politics or diplomacy of it all'. :)


Samadrita Kalliope wrote: "Good to see a positive review on this one. With me, it just did not click. There was something in the tone..."

Sorry to hear you didn't like the book, Kall. It's because we all have such different reading tastes that we get to see light shed on different aspects of the same book here. And that is what makes the Goodreads experience so worthwhile.


Kalliope Samadrita wrote: "

Sorry to hear you didn't like the book, Kall. It's because we all ..."


I know, I was surprised I did not connect with it. It had been given to me as a gift, and a couple of friends really liked it. But another couple of friends didn't either.

Apart from differences from individual to individual, it also matters greatly at which point and in which circumstances one has read the book...

That is why I liked reading your review, particularly because your being of the same nationality as the writer certainly gives an additional credibility to your opinion.

But Roy is an interesting woman. I understand she has not written any other novels, and that her interests are more on political issues.


message 40: by Mosca (last edited Jan 30, 2014 08:54AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mosca I'm a longtime admirer of Arundhati Roy as a political essayist and public speaker. And for some reason it has taken me a long time to get around to reading this book.

I was very, very much effected. (5 stars). Very well written. But I was terrified and confused by its tale.

And now your review has helped me to clarify much of my confusion. I will re-read this.

Thank you, Samadrita.


message 41: by Fionnuala (new)

Fionnuala Samadrita wrote: ".Sorry to hear you didn't like the book, Kall. It's because we all have such different reading tastes that we get to see light shed on different aspects of the same book here. And that is what makes the Goodreads experience so worthwhile. .."

I appreciated your review, Sam, because it revealed facets of the book I'd underrated when I read it.
Still, my overall memory is one of being suffocated by the lushness of the writing. I somehow doubt Roy could/would ever write that way again. But we'll see...


Samadrita Kalliope wrote: "Samadrita wrote: "

Sorry to hear you didn't like the book, Kall. It's because we all ..."

I know, I was surprised I did not connect with it. It had been given to me as a gift, and a couple of fr..."


Perfectly understandable, Kall. Roy is supposedly working on her second novel. And I have just returned from the Calcutta Book Fair armed with a few volumes of her essays. TGoST has definitely turned me into a devout fan. Prior to reading this book, I had viewed her political arguments with a skeptical eye. But now I understand completely - what she feels, means and wants. She has a good grasp over the facts dominating our political and socio-cultural landscape .
You can try her nonfiction sometime, maybe.


Samadrita Mosca wrote: "I'm a longtime admirer of Arundhati Roy as a political essayist and public speaker. And for some reason it has taken me a long time to get around to reading this book.

I was very, very much effect..."


I am very happy to know that my review helped clarify some of your confusion, Mosca. Although I framed my review in a rather oblique manner. And I will re-read this again some day.


message 44: by Samadrita (last edited Jan 31, 2014 08:36AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Samadrita Fionnuala wrote: "Samadrita wrote: ".Sorry to hear you didn't like the book, Kall. It's because we all have such different reading tastes that we get to see light shed on different aspects of the same book here. And..."

I think her poetic writing sharpened the blow of the tragedy and it was, perhaps, an indirect way of trying to preserve the beauty of living amid all the ugliness in the world at large. I loved the book and I know there were certain flaws - like how Roy often got carried away while trying to script the narrative in the unique language of children and exaggerated their thought processes. And she also referenced the meaning behind the title one too many times. But I was so blown away by the crucial issues she touched upon while never stepping into overtly sentimental territory, that I decided not to nitpick.
Glad you liked the review, Fio.


Samadrita Pulkit wrote: "I doubt whether a better novel can be written highlighting the horrors of patriarchy and fear disguised as bigotry and illusion of order.
Sadly, the injustices are just as alive today as they were..."


Can't say that but it is certainly a great novel focusing on the importance of social justice. I am happy we read it at the same time though.


message 46: by Scarlet (new)

Scarlet Seriously Sama, reading so many of your reviews one after the other makes me wish you'd publish a collection of these someday. Just so I could officially add you to my favorite authors' list ;)


Samadrita Scarlet wrote: "Seriously Sama, reading so many of your reviews one after the other makes me wish you'd publish a collection of these someday. Just so I could officially add you to my favorite authors' list ;)"

You have to stop bombarding me with such awfully nice comments right after you arrive. It's a little too much for my heart. :P
And now I patiently wait for you to review something.


Nidhi Singh This is a brilliant review Samadrita! I read this book at an age when I couldn't really understand it. Now re-reading this seems to be one of the most essential things I need to do.


Samadrita Nidhi wrote: "This is a brilliant review Samadrita! I read this book at an age when I couldn't really understand it. Now re-reading this seems to be one of the most essential things I need to do."

Sorry about the late reply, Nidhi. Seems like I missed your comment somehow. I am glad you liked the review and I'll be even happier if it gets you to re-read Roy's only novel some day.


message 50: by Harry (last edited Apr 25, 2014 05:30AM) (new)

Harry An homage to a writer. Very beautifully done, Samadrita. I would read this just to become more familiar with the Indian landscape. It really is not good that you and other GR friends are so familiar with the Western landscape, while we in the West are so notoriously unfamiliar with yours (artistically, politically, philosophically and socially).


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