The God of Small Things

The God of Small Things was on my list of books to read for a long time now, but I somehow never managed to read it. I finally decided it was time when a friend mentioned it during one of our conversations. That was the 3rd time someone told me about that book in the last few weeks. I immediately 'sourced' it and read it in a record time of 3 days (thanks to the weekend).

This is not a book to be read quickly because of a couple of reasons.
1) The style of the narrative is complicated. If you don't enjoy the style, you will not enjoy the story
2) The story is complicated. If you don't enjoy the story, you won't enjoy the style
3) More importantly, Arundhati Roy has a very poetic way of writing prose which makes it difficult to understand what she really means if you don't focus and read carefully. "She held tears in her eyes like words in a pen"

The style is so amazing that you will have to savor it, not read quickly to understand the plot. Here is an example "It was the kind of time in the life of a family when something happens to nudge its hidden morality from its resting place and make it bubble to the surface and float for a while. In clear view. For everyone to see."

In Salman Rushdie style, she invents new words ("afternoon-mare", "stopited (stop-it-ed)"), capitalizes words that need to be emphasized ("Estha was Returned"), and uses run ins ("Okaythen") which makes her characters even more interesting. She uses Malayalam liberally and assumes that the reader has some basic understanding of Kerala and its language. I personally love Malayalam so it added to the charm.

Arundhati has a beautiful way of describing seemingly insignificant things in great detail as a preparation to what she is about to unfold in her story. Most of the description is about intricate details about the landscape of Kerala, the caste system, communism, and to a certain extent, the Syrian Christian way of living. As the story progresses, she tightens the noose and very delicately tilts the balance towards describing the characters, again in her beautifully intricate way. The story overall is dark and sad. Everything about all the characters is heartbreaking.

Personally, I could not digest the very explicit and raw description that the author indulged in many times in the book. I somehow find many of the Indian authors (at least the ones I have read) unnecessarily get into a deep detailing of things that won't do any harm if not mentioned. The characters are complicated and there were times when the relation between them made me mildly uncomfortable.

You can read the gist of the story here. I am skipping commenting on the characters, the decisions they take and the situations they go through as it is very complex. I would love to have a verbal or email debate if you have read the book.

Overall, a must read if you love Kerala, if you love some original style, and if you can stand sad stories.