TITLE: THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS
AUTHOR: 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 reconstitutred. Imbued with new meaning. Suddenly they become the bleached bones of a story.”
Tony Mochama mentioned some time back about The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, and the mention came with a jacket of praise. Being on my radar for quite some time, I decided to have it as my first 2017 read. Yes it won the Man Booker Prize, yet it drowned me, I was engulfed by the swelling waters of intolerable sorrows, the word shaped eyes thrashed me with each page I leafed. However, the same book gave me life after killing me hundred times in waves of piercing beauty. The words were remarkably written to bring out profound humor and themes like communism, tension in religion, colonialism, culture and forbidden love. “And the Air was full of Thoughts and Things to Say. But at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. The Big Things lurk unsaid inside.”
Ammu is from a high profiled family of a renowned entomologist and violin player. She is in love with Bengali and she got married to him although this is against the will of her family as they expected a man from a touchable cast. Two years later Ammu decides to leave her marriage because her husband has turned out to be an alcoholic although they have fraternal twins Esta and Rahel together. Amu retrogrades to her parents’ home with her kids despite being considered an outcast and damned to live a wretched life. Her father Pappachi has since passed on and her poor mother Mammachi is blind. Mammachi is the founder of the family business Paradise Pickles and Preserves. She would get a daily dose of a beating as per the tradition as they couldn’t name Pappachi’s Moth after him.
Ammu is determined to raise her children Esta and Rahel to be significant, and his brother Chacko puts an effort to be the father of Ammu’s kids, but his real love is for his daughter Sophie who lives in England. On the other hand, Ammu’s aunt Baby Kochama whose happiness eluded way back is relentlessly working to make the life of Ammu and her bastard kids as scummy as hers considering she couldn’t make it be a nun and she neither got her real love. Velutha despite being three years younger than Ammu happens to be the best friend to the twins, Velutha the low caste carpenter goes ahead to break the laws of love as he falls in love with Ammu and she feels the same as well.
My reaction while reading the book.
The entire story revolves around the butterfly effect although it’s moths that are mentioned. There are many other small things that referred to in the story and the ‘Big things’ as well. “The moth on Rahel’s heart spread its velvet wings, and the chill crept into her bones.” Roy’s characters bend the rules and the setting of Ayemenem is a heart of darkness for some characters. The return of Chacko’s ex-wife and her daughter Sophie is a significant event especially to the twins as it becomes vivid how small they are in a Big life. Initially, the twins were considered as one, but when they lived apart, things changed and are now referred to as ‘them’.” They are now “A pair of actors… stumbling through their parts, nursing someone else’s sorrow”, and realizing, too late, “You’re not the Sinners. You’re the Sinned Against.”
I have since had something with Indian writing, and it was a bit difficult for me to write the review because Roy made me overwhelmed and dubious. It’s melancholy, and I loved it. The metaphors were somehow tedious, and the plot was not as sequential from my previous books not to mention it is poetic. Nevertheless, this is a book that has left an indelible impact, and I still recall how I slammed the final pages in a victory. I don’t think I need to praise it any further. If you haven’t read, it ought to be on your TBR list.