Friday, April 4, 2014

Book Review - The god of Small Things

Author – Arundhati Roy
ISBN -    0-06-097749-3
Published on : 1997
Pages: 158
My Rating:  3.5 /5

“The Way her body existed only where he touched her. The rest of her was smoke.” – God of Small things

The God of Small things is a debut novel and Masterpiece of Indian Author Arundhati Roy. The plot is entirely based in a town named Ayemenem which is a part of Kottayam town in God’s own Country Kerala. The book is semi – autobiographical work of the author. Arundhati Roy has incorporated her own experiences in Ayemenem and her innocent childhood days in that place.

It is based on life and the experiences of the two-egg twins or fraternal twins named Rahel and Esthappen. The tale brings about a beautiful blend of Caste system, Catholic class, Keralite community and cultural tensions. Initially the story dates back to 1969 when the twins are seven years old and later to 1993 when they are 31-year old. At this age, they are reunited. Author had captured the aspects of Kerala and the emotions of a Keralite class. Most of the story is viewed from the twin’s perspective. Roy has certainly used the children’s ideas and their innocence as the base of the story. The turbulent and disturbed childhood of the twins is exhibited in a proper manner and grips the reader tightly from beginning to end. It talks about the inter-class sexual relations, a social stigma by narrating the example of Vellya Paapen who discovers his son crossing the line and tries to commit suicide. Above all, love is something which knows no culture, political and social backgrounds.

Author starts her story by showing Rahel’s return to Ayemenem after hearing that her twin brother, Estha has come home. Story revolves around the death of Sophie Mol – twins’ half English cousin, untouchable comrade Velutha, an affair with Velutha which turns Ammu’s life upside down, separation of the twins’, discrimination of the classes, infidelity. Each character has got their own identity in the plot and there is no escape from the emotions that each one is portraying. We could get an overview of what are the laws that is binding them together and who should be loved and how much they should be. The book switches to the wounded past and the consequences of those can be felt in the present.

The book won the Booker Prize – Premier and coveted prize for fiction in the English literature. It reached fourth position on the New York Times best sellers fiction. Roy has created a moving plot wherein the story is centered on all the characters and none of them are left out or neglected. The relationship of twins is weaved aesthetically and they are attributed as one person with two hearts, minds and body. Book reflects the realistic problems faced by the author in her own country and abroad. The final chapter is based on the affair of Velutha and Ammu where they make love. They even share the small things and admire them as they meet each night. When they again get involved on the last night immediately before Velutha’s death, Ammu repeats the word “Tomorrow” (Roughly translated in Malayalam - Naaley) as they usually say this each night to one another. At the outset, beautifully written and incredibly moving.

Talking about the languages and expressions used in the book, one could smell Kerala and the air of Malayalees. Some verses and the words are closely associated with the state. It brings back the fresh memories of Kerala and its nature. The nature, lushness and the personification of the setting of Ayemenem gives a sensuous and magnifying effect.

The main Characters in the plot:

1.       Ammu: The divorced mother of fraternal twins who was a wife of alcoholic tea estate manager. She leaves her husband to live with her mother and brother in Ayemenem. Later she becomes a love of the worker – Velutha and they get involved physically. The description of their relationship is depicted well by the author.

2.       Baby Kochamma: Sister of Pappachi, Father of Ammu. She has done her education in America. She stays unmarried and was prey to love affair with young priest in her youth days. She tries her best to pull down Ammu and twins’ throughout the plot. She convinces the police that Ammu and her children were responsible for their Cousin Sophie mol’s death.

3.       Rahel: Estha’s twin sister who is a clever and intellectual person.

4.       Esthappen: Rahel’s twin brother who is intelligent, pragmatic in his approach and responsible for his acts.

5.       Chacko: Brother of Ammu who is married to an English Lady called Margaret. He gets on to the business of Paradise Pickles and preserves soon after he gets a divorce from his wife.

6.       Velutha: He is an untouchable (dalit). His carpenting and mechanic skills make him vital to the factory. He faces lot of resentment from the people working in the factory mainly due to his class. His secret affair with Ammu gets a disagreement with Ammu’s family and Baby Kochamma holds Velutha responsible for the tragedy in her family.

Some dislikes:

1.       Ungrammatical constructions and unrelated sentences. It needs a thorough editing.
2.       Repetitive phrases and sentences provide us a feeling of Poetry.
3.       Author does not have clarity on political aspects and hence poses a vague opinion on the political issues.

Story of real life, unexpected happenings in childhood, struggles of community and classes in Kerala State makes this novel a viable one to read and does not restrict it to be elevated to the Nobel Prize category.

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