God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

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.


  1. Ok. I have to start saying by OH.MY.GOD

    You are finally somebody I’ve met/read who thinks this novel was big peice of over artistic mishap.

    I absolutely could not understand the buzz about this book when I read it and somehow everybody else thought it was fantastic.

    I’m so glad Ive finnaly read a negative and a true review of this book.

  2. Thanks Meghna, I am glad that you liked my review.

    As a fellow reader, I do understand the frustration one feels on reading a disappointing best-seller, hailed by almost everyone else as the next best thing. Somehow, most of the readers are swayed by the publicity, an author has garnered owing to his/her PR skills,and give little attention to their own opinion regarding the book.

    And I found this particularly true of some of the award winning novels, be it Difficult Daughters or The White Tiger.

  3. Yes , I absolutely agree.
    But then I liked the white tiger.
    I definately expected more out of the book, but it’s charming and sometimes suprising wit amused me.

    I would recommend you do a review on various other books like six suspect by vikas sawrup.. And you must.. must read A suitable boy with vikram seth. Its a sheer genius of a book. It gets dragging in the middle and 1500 pages is a big number of pages but the story and intricate details in that book make it an absolute force to reckon with.

  4. Meghna, A Suitable Boy has been on my wishing list for a long time and after reading your comment, I do feel I should read it soon.

    Well, as for The white Tiger, I found it unrealistic. The emotionless story about a poor villager turned driver turned enterpreneur failed to impress me. Though, I liked the innovative epistolary narrative style of Arvinda.

  5. Oh yes you must.
    But I would recommend you read another fast paced action novel on the side with it because its very slow.

  6. Pingback: High School Love by Chocoholic Shadow | Review

  7. If you did not enjoy this book, then you obviously did not catch on to the bigger picture. This book is hardly about twins at all. This book was a bash at the Indian government and they reacted by charging the author with contempt of court. The God of Small Things was written to share the message that the modern Indian government is intruding on the personal (even sexual) lives of its own countries people.

Leave a Reply