12.28.2009

Literature Week: The God of Small Things

Literature Week is an event occurring this week on my blog. Everyday, I will read a book considered to be a "great" classic and review it.

For my sixth book, I read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

Book Description:
In her first novel, award-winning Indian screenwriter Arundhati Roy conjures a whoosh of wordplay that rises from the pages like a brilliant jazz improvisation. The God of Small Things is nominally the story of young twins Rahel and Estha and the rest of their family, but the book feels like a million stories spinning out indefinitely; it is the product of a genius child-mind that takes everything in and transforms it in an alchemy of poetry. The God of Small Things is at once exotic and familiar to the Western reader, written in an English that's completely new and invigorated by the Asian Indian influences of culture and language.

My Opinion:

The God of Small Things is without a doubt a work of literary genius; books of such quality are one of a kind. I had the hardest time ever writing this review--I kept postponing it. I just plain can't give this book the justice it deserves.

It's because of the beauty. The beauty in every single line, in every single powerful word, is a microcosm of the overall beauty that is the very essence of this novel. It's enough to make me want to weep. This novel is powerful, moving, and richly emotional. And most definitely one of the best books I've ever read in my life. The God of Small Things is one of those novels that speaks to your soul and thus changes your life.

My newest soul book.

Within the first few pages, within the first few sentences, The God of Small Things demonstrates a sort of beauty that not many authors can create. Roy has this gift of completely disarming the reader with one gorgeous description after the next. Her style is utterly unique: sentence fragments, capitalized words, and stream-of-conscious musings abound. Because of this, it is a complete wonder to see the book unfold. Roy reveals each new layer with a subtlety, a bold beauty, an unflinching intent to create a world that rests entirely on her grasp of prose. This novel is so infinitely textured that each layer is rich with depth--a world of emotion in every word, every line of magnificently written prose, every wondrous paragraph.

The God of Small Things centers around one family--in particular the two "egg twins" Estha and Rahel, who were separated at the age of seven, and have finally been reunited at the age of thirty one. Their story is fraught with tragedy--in the first pages, they attend the funeral of their nine year-old-cousin who had drowned. As the novel progresses, it's soon revealed that their divorcee mother, Ammu, possesses a wild streak that will prove to be the downfall of them all. Their Uncle, Chacko, is an Oxford-educated Marxist who has returned from England after the failure of his marriage. And then there is Baby Kochammah, who had once attempted to become a nun because she'd fallen in love with an Irish priest. The God of Small Things is a story of all of these people, their small actions, the resounding effect it has on the people they love and are connected to.

Perhaps the reason it's difficult to summarize this book is because the plot is nonlinear--events that happened last are revealed first, events that happened in the middle are revealed last, and the scene breaks each signify the jump from one seemingly unrelated incidence to the other. Other readers might find this technique to be a source of confusion, but to me it was just another element of Roy's unique style. It created this almost dreamlike quality, and I suspect the reason some of Roy's words are so well crafted is that with this technique, she had the opportunity to focus on everything: every little detail, every sentence, every short but heart-wrenching scene. The end result is a book that is magnificent. Ingeniously held together by nothing but Roy's prose. Her words are mesmerizing. Magical. Brilliant. Wholly unchecked.Roy has such a way with words that she could write about paint drying and I'd be honored to read it. Her prose is like poetry, of the most finely written kind. It's got this amazing sort of rhythm, and each word is a gem.

I suspect I'm botching the explanation, so here are some examples of the prose that brought me close to tears.

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing"

"She saw a wisp of madness escape from its bottle and caper triumphantly around the bathroom."

"They ran along the bank calling out to her. But she was gone. Carried away on the muffled highway. Graygreen. With fish in it. With he sky and trees in it. And at night the broken yellow moon in it."

"It was raining when Rahel came back to Ayemenem. Slanting silver ropes slammed into loose earth, plowing it up like gunfire."

"By then Esthappen and Rahel had learned that the world had other ways of breaking men. They were already familiar with the smell. Sicksweet. Like old roses on a breeze."

"As Estha stirred the thick jam he thought Two Thoughts and the Two Thoughts he thought were these:
a) Anything can happen to anyone.
and
b) It is best to be prepared."

"She thought of what would happen if the rope snapped. She imagined him dropping like a dark star out of the sky that he had made. Lying broken on the hot church floor, dark blood spilling from his skull like a secret."

As evinced by the quotes above, Roy pens a work of such fragmented, breathtaking beauty that it's wondrous to behold. The God of Small Things is wondrous to behold. I feel like I've read a book that deserves all the praise it receives, and more. It's literary, it's got merit, and it's quite possibly the most beautifully written book I've ever read.

Teenage Ignoramus Comment:
I sort of worship Roy now. She is my hero.

My Rating on the Classics Scale: 10/10. No, I take that back, I give it an 11/10. Whoah, I've given a book an 11/10? Is that even possible? With this book, anything is possible. If you haven't read it, you must go out and get a copy and devour it. It's a classic, it's momentous, and it's beautiful.

Special thanks to lovely ink for recommending me this book <3

12 comments:

Amna said...

Wow!

I love the quotes you gave us!

Ink is good with her recommendations. This sounds fantastic.

As always, fabulous review.

Dannie said...

I'm glad you liked it so much! The quotes you included were a nice touch and got me *very* interested in the book.

Becky said...

Fabulous review. Maybe I should read this. I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to adult literature. I sort limit myself to the books I have to read for the staff book group.

choco (In Which a Girl Reads) said...

@Amna: Glad you like the quotes, I doggeared the pages I liked when I was reading. Which is pretty much ALL the pages, LOL. And yes ink is FANTABULOUS.

@Dannie: I loved it! Glad I've gotten you interested, you should definitely read it :)

@Becky: Yes, READ IT! It's just so beautiful, it's worth it :)

Emilia Joyce Plater said...

Holy **** gotta read this. HAHA. I find I always write more creatively after reading writing like this... I went on a total metaphorical writing stint after reading Wintergirls. Whoo.

choco (In Which a Girl Reads) said...

@ Emilia: YESSS,you must. It really does help reading beautiful writing cause it sort of leaks into your own writing. I LOVED Wintegirls. Now that is how literary contemp should be done! and it was just so beautiful.

Amna said...

I'm reading this now!

Gah! So beautiful <3

inkspatters said...

YAY! You read it and reviewed it and you did such a good job of summing up it's amazingness *happy dances*. I'm so glad people share my love of this book :D

Also, I totally agree with your teenage ignoramus comment, lol.

choco (In Which a Girl Reads) said...

@Amna: Yay!

@ink: *tacklehugz* I am in slave-debt to you for recommending this book to me. Seriously :)

pepsivanilla said...

I love those quotes...wow. I think I need to read this book now!

5peasinapod said...

An 11? Really? I'll have to check this one out a bit more.

Amy said...

I loved this book when I read it a few years ago. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I think you did a wonderful job with your review. I can just imagine how difficult it was too write, I'm glad I read the book before I started a blog!

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