2007: 169. The God of Small Things

“May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month.  The days are long and humid.  The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees.”

The God of Small Things, Arunhati Roy

This book won the Booker prize in 1997, but I must say that I found it to be extremely overrated.  There were some things I did like - reading about a part of the world about which I knew nothing, and the way that Roy managed to describe it - both so that it illuminated how different it is from where I live and described it without making it seem “exotic” and odd, but rather just a place where real people live.  Her characters were similarly different from the people I know, but believable (if a little larger than life).  I knew little to nothing about Syrian Christians in India, or how rampant the caste system is (or was in 1969), and I learned about that in this book, without the book feeling like a history lesson.

But, oh, what I didn’t like! I didn’t like how this is one of those books in which the plot of what happened could be explained in two sentences, but the author takes 321 pages to get us there.  I am tired of these books where the author knows what happened but reveals it in bits and pieces - it works for Faulkner, but all that happened with The God of Small Things is that I got tired of trying to figure out what really happened.   Also, the language, which sometimes was lovely and descriptive occasionally turned the corner to embarrassingly overwritten (the sex scene with the mother and Velutha made me cringe).  Finally, there were at least two plot points (incest and pedophelia) which, if I never read about in another book will be too soon, and were totally unnecessary in a book about racism, drowning, the separation of twins, what makes a good parent, and growing up in India.  The book was sensational enough without those other elements!  

That having been said, and while I cannot imagine that this was the best book written in England in 1997, Roy does have a way with language, and with setting, and many of these faults are first time writer mistakes.  I’d love to see what she pulls from her sleeve next.

Recommended for: People who want to read about India; people who want to think about families, people trying to read all the Booker Prize winning novels

Date/Place Completed: 10/31/07; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Commuting Book, Booker Prize Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017