Arundhati Roy’s First and till date, the only novel- ‘God of Small Things’ created quite a stir in 1997 by winning Booker Prize. In my earlier years, I have always yearned to read this novel, partly because of the buzz it created and hugely because the title attracted me. A few days back, I actually had the chance to read the book.
But, they say, that sometimes, dreams must remain dreams, as the moment, the flight of imagination crashes onto the hard ground of reality, the bubble of expectations burst, exposing the muck behind it. This is what happened when I read this book. The novel failed to impress me. The storyline lacked conviction and the characters appeared shallow, often introduced to make the protagonists’ life hellish and to create more controversies on moral grounds.
The plot of the story revolves around the dizygotic twins Rahel and Estha, born in Calcutta to the ill fated married couple-Ayemenem born, Delhi bred Syrian Christian Ammu and Alcoholic Tea Estate managing father- brought together by force of circumstances and cruel destiny. When the twins are seven year old (in 1969), Ammu leaves her husband for good and comes back to her home town Ayemenem in Kerala, to live with her subservient but enterprising mother, frustrated father and intelligent but heart broken brother Chacko.
The story moves back and forth between 1969 and 1993, highlighting the childhood events of Estha and Rahel, who are one soul trapped in two bodies, and not only understand each other without uttering a single word but even share jokes that only they can understand, for example, reading the words backward, or breaking the punctuation to create new words and laughing at their novelty. I really liked this part, as Roy seems to write her thoughts as they come to her mind and thus succeeds in creating a children world out there who indulge in calling ‘Welcome” as “Mecolew” and ‘An Owl’ as “A Nowl” creating their self created jokes and enjoying them to the fullest.
But, the problem with God of Small Things is that too many characters are portrayed in a uni dimensional way such as the vendor at the cinema hall whose sole purpose seems to provide some darkness to an otherwise jovial, though lonely world of Rahel and Estha, Their Ammu and Aunty Baby Kochamma, too seem wooden, devoid of emotions. I liked the character of Velutha, though, who is a Dalit, in love with Ammu, and a father figure to the twins, and who bears the brunt of caste system and false sense of family honour and is mercilessly beaten and killed.
I would have preferred the novel to end at the stage when Velutha is killed, but the author decided to stretch it to present time (1993), when both the protagonists have grown up, as rather sadistic lonely adults, who can not find any solace in this society and are forced to live in each others company in a rather questionable relationship.
The style of presentation was hazy and not easily understandable and over emphasis on morality issues spoilt the charm of this otherwise potential novel, for me.