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Previous Reads: Around the World > India: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

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message 1: by Louise, Group Founder (new)

Louise | 680 comments Mod
Our inaugural 'Read Around the World' book for February is The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. It is set in India and Roy herself is Indian.

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About the Book (Wikipedia)
The God of Small Things (1997) is the debut novel of Indian writer Arundhati Roy. It is a story about the childhood experiences of fraternal twins whose lives are destroyed by the "Love Laws" that lay down "who should be loved, and how. And how much." The book explores how the small things affect people's behavior and their lives. It won the Booker Prize in 1997.
The God of Small Things is Roy's first book and her only novel. Completed in 1996, the book took four years to complete. The potential of the story was first recognized by Pankaj Mishra, an editor with HarperCollins, who sent it to three British publishers. Roy received 500,000 pounds in advance and rights to the book were sold in 21 countries.
In 2013, Talkhiyan, a Pakistani serial based on the novel, was aired on Express Entertainment.


Blurb (Waterstones)
They all broke the rules. They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much.' This is the story of Rahel and Estha, twins growing up among the banana vats and peppercorns of their blind grandmother's factory, and amid scenes of political turbulence in Kerala. Armed only with the innocence of youth, they fashion a childhood in the shade of the wreck that is their family: their lonely, lovely mother, their beloved Uncle Chacko (pickle baron, radical Marxist, bottom-pincher) and their sworn enemy, Baby Kochamma (ex-nun, incumbent grand-aunt). Arundhati Roy's Booker Prize-winning novel was the literary sensation of the 1990s: a story anchored to anguish but fuelled by wit and magic.


Arundhati Roy (Wikipedia)
Suzanna Arundhati Roy (born 24 November 1961) is an Indian author. She is best known for her novel The God of Small Things, which won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997. This novel became the biggest-selling book by a nonexpatriate Indian author. She is also a political activist involved in human rights and environmental causes.
Since The God of Small Things she has written mostly essays. Her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness was announced last year, and expected to be released June 2017.


message 2: by Subarna (new)

Subarna I read The God of Small Things several years ago. I had read great reviews about this book and it had also won the Man Booker Prize, so, I had high hopes when I started off. But, my hopes were shattered as this book turned out to be one of the most frustrating books I have ever read.

I disliked the plot and the characters equally. At one point, it became exceptionally tedious to read the lengthy descriptions (too many of them) without anything actually happening in the story. The language, though beautiful, is at times difficult to understand, which I think is the consequence of the too many metaphors used on every single page. The mere name of this book makes me cringe (in fear of boredom). It is one of the very few books on my bookshelf that I haven't touched in years and don't intend to do so in future.

I am sure many readers will enjoy this book, but, it is definitely not for me.


message 3: by Anita (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 753 comments Mod
For some reason I grabbed a completely different book (Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity) from the library on accident! I have the correct book on hold now, and hope to start it within the week.


message 4: by Anita (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 753 comments Mod
Yes, I'm finding this book really frustrating. The story jumps back in forth in time and there are so many characters that I feel lost at the beginning of every chapter. I got to chapter 5 and just went back to reread the beginning because I feel like I'm reading a completely different story. It's frustratingly confusing.


message 5: by Subarna (new)

Subarna Anita wrote: "Yes, I'm finding this book really frustrating. The story jumps back in forth in time and there are so many characters that I feel lost at the beginning of every chapter. I got to chapter 5 and just..."

Yeah, it is really frustrating to read. It was an experience I never would like to re-live.


message 6: by Sophie (new)

Sophie | 135 comments Subarna, you've voiced my experience and opinion of this book exactly. I haven't finished it yet but I will persist because I have a rule that I always finish every book I begin. I also went back to the beginning to reread because I lost track of characters and what was happening to them.


message 7: by i r e n e (new)

i r e n e (irene_romance) | 32 comments I'm in Chapter 7, which means I've barely made a dent in the story. I'm a bit conflicted because my experience of reading the story has not been as enjoyable as I want it to be.

Arundhati Roy has a unique voice with pleasant rhythms and changes to the word length. I like the certain echoes of significant phrases. It seems random and all-over-the-place but this seemingly chaotic flow must have been so hard to write without it getting out of control. I admire this style of writing.

Yet I don't like how certain scenes are drawn out like the trip to watch The Sound of Music. I generally find the descriptions useful but I found myself really only enjoying the part about the backstory to the characters, how Mammachi created the pickle factory, Rahel's disintegrating relationship with Larry when they move to the US, Chacko's flirting with communism or Velutha the untouchable who could have been one of the best engineers. Pappachi is also a nuanced character, with a lot of bad parts to him but he's also a portrait of a man of his times.

How Arundhati switches back and forth between past and present is quite skilful in building up suspense leading up to the day of Sophie Mol's demise. I do want to know what actually happens, but I can't seem to get into it as much as I want to.

Seeing as how I have limited time for reading in leisure, I might have to put this on pause and return to it at another time.


message 8: by Anita (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 753 comments Mod
I stopped after Chapter 5, and went back to the beginning to re-read it. I don't know what this says about my mental capacity at the moment, but the second time around clarified a great many people in my mind and it has become a much more enjoyable read. I did put it down for a couple days due to an awful sickness in which I couldn't do anything - not even read! - but am back at it now.

As much as I appreciate the way she is writing the novel so that the suspense is constant and the reader is always wondering what happened what happened, I can say from experience that she may be too elusive in her mysterious writing style. The switching of timelines is a common enough writing technique, but something in her writing makes it too seamless and caused at least me to be confused quite often in the beginning.

Like I said though, I AM enjoying it now, but I can't forget that I had to restart the book to get it.


message 9: by Anita (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 753 comments Mod
I also have the feeling that she has written this carefully, and in such a way that once you finish the book and everything clicks that it will be a moment to take your breath away.


message 10: by i r e n e (new)

i r e n e (irene_romance) | 32 comments Anita wrote: "I stopped after Chapter 5, and went back to the beginning to re-read it. I don't know what this says about my mental capacity at the moment, but the second time around clarified a great many people..."

Elusive is definitely something I've felt about the effect her writing style has on the reader. I'm glad to hear that you are enjoying it now - it makes me more determined to go back to it!


message 11: by GooeyGoobert (new)

GooeyGoobert | 3 comments I read this book back in high school, and now I'm re reading it again 9 years later, and it's like a completely different story to me. I do recommend taking your time and not being afraid to re read passages. I had to do that again even this time. It is a very powerful read. Even after reaching the end a second time, it still felt like a gut punch.


message 12: by Louise, Group Founder (new)

Louise | 680 comments Mod
Well I'm glad there are a few more positive comments now. I will be picking this book up soon and had been starting to dread it!


message 13: by Louise, Group Founder (new)

Louise | 680 comments Mod
So I finished this book yesterday and I absolutely loved it.

Probably helped with all the characters and names that I read it quite quickly and on holiday, so I was able to get into it uninterrupted. But, aside from a few small passages, I was happy to find I didn't need to reread too often.


message 14: by Anita (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 753 comments Mod
Lol, glad you loved it Louise. I ended up really enjoying it myself, and I don't know what happened to me there in the beginning. perhaps I'll blame it on sickness.

The underlying story of the caste system was really sad, it makes me interested in reading more non-fiction about it as I'm ignorant to all the intricacies of it. If anyone had some suggestions, maybe on some history of the caste system, I'd appreciate it.


message 15: by Louise, Group Founder (new)

Louise | 680 comments Mod
Ooof. I could try to find my old uni booklist from when I did a couple of Indian history modules at uni, but it would probably all be super academic. Though I do think that grounding in Indian history, the effects of colonialism, and the caste system (even though I've forgotten so many details) helped when starting out with this.

Another novel I'd really recommend if you enjoyed this one is A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (I know he's a man so probably shouldn't recommend him here but it is very good). Also deals with the plight of those lower down the caste system.


message 16: by Kairia (new)

Kairia I'm a bit late to the party. I just finished this book this morning. I found the pacing made the book much longer than necessary and by the time the end came around, I was too numb by the constant timeline jumps to really care.


message 17: by Sophie (new)

Sophie | 135 comments Louise wrote: "Ooof. I could try to find my old uni booklist from when I did a couple of Indian history modules at uni, but it would probably all be super academic. Though I do think that grounding in Indian hist..."

I'm glad you mentioned A Fine Balance by Rohinton Minstry. I loved that book, though as you said it is not by a female author.


message 18: by Genevieve (new)

Genevieve | 1 comments Hi everyone, This is my first group read since joining the group. I appreciated The God of Small Things but I didn't exactly enjoy it... The writing was fabulous, in terms of imaginative metaphors and colourful descriptions. I couldn't believe this was the authors first book! It was easy to immerse myself in the scenes despite never having visited India. Obviously, the plot was quite depressing and some of the characters were easy to hate (looking at you Baby!) but overall I thought it was a good read although I will not be revisting it any time soon!


message 19: by Martha (new)

Martha (marthais) | 15 comments I'm glad to come across others who didn't like this book, I really had to drag myself through it and was quite irritated by the end. I felt like Roy has a beautiful way of writing, a lot of the descriptions were lyrical and evocative but I was soooo bored, didn't really know what was going on and didn't particularly like any of the characters. I read another Booker winner recently (Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee) and hated that, so clearly there's a thing about the Man Booker Prize that I need to avoid!


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