Sunday, 30 September 2007

The God of small things by Arundhati Roy

I have mixed feelings about this one. I had hoped to loose myself in it and be completely absorbed by the story, but that never happened really. At first, I was intrigued by the use of the language, so experimental and new. But after a while it started to be an obstacle, it didn’t let me enjoy the story freely. I had to stop many times to actually figure out what she meant and what was going on. It didn’t help that the timeline was mixed up constantly, making it hard at the beginning to follow the narration. The first chapters were hard to get into because of all the Indian names and words I didn’t know. There were so many characters and each seemed to have a story of their own. I normally like these family sagas, so I stopped and started reading it again from the beginning. That helped. Soon though, her style became somewhat annoying. Not because it didn’t sound beautiful. It did. But it was overdone. She kept repeating some words and phrases like a chant, or a refrain. And if that’s good in a song, I found out it doesn’t sound as pleasant in a novel. It stopped the story from flowing into me.
However, I kept reading. Partly because I was hoping that I would gradually accept her style and then just enjoy it. But mostly because I liked the story, I liked the little twins, who embodied the real meaning of the word “soul-mates”. I just wanted to know was going to happen to them. You can sense since the beginning that something had happened to this family, something terrible, unspeakable. How did the little cousin Sophie Mol died? Why had Estha, one the twins, been returned, like an unwanted parcel? Who is this Velutha that’s mentioned at the beginning, and what was his role in the tragedy? The author keeps the suspense on till the end, when in few chapters everything unravels and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. Normally stories like this would depress me. I’d feel powerless in front of the inevitability of faith. But the way the author decided to end it, twisting the timeline again, leaves you with a happy, tender feeling, even if it’s a hopeless one. So I’m glad I read it and I made till the end. I’m not sure if I could handle another book with the same style, but it was interesting at least. It took me an awful lot of time to read, which is never good. But it left me some beautiful metaphors (she really has a talent for them) like this one:
He began to look wiser than he really was. Like a fisherman in a city. With sea-secrets in him.
New verbs like smiling out loud.
And a Banana Jam recipe that I might try one day!


Wendy said...

Valentina, I just finished this one too - but I liked it a lot better than you did *smiles* I found the language beautiful - and I agree that the story itself was what keeps the pages turning. Roy knows how to build tension and suspense and she did it very well here. Another book which is a lot like this in style is The Bone People - have you read that one?

valentina said...

No I haven't Wendy, but I think I will one day, because it's part of the booker project:P

I wished I had loved it more. I thought it was beautiful at times, but I just couldn't fall in love with it like many of you did.

Ana S. said...

I guess that the fact that I read it so slowly helped me enjoy the style more. But I agree with you that the story is the best thing about this book, and that the ending was unbelievably tender. It was certainly my favourite part of the book.

I was a bit confused with all the characters at the start too, in way that reminded me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude", but fortunately things became clearer in time.

Em said...

I haven't read this one yet. I'll have to try it out...

Ponnarasi Kothandaraman said...

I didnt find the book that interesting as it was boasted about :(

But it will be a good read if you read with not much expectations.