The God of Small Things

The God of Small Things

by Arundhati Roy

Paperback(Reprint)

$15.47 $17.00 Save 9% Current price is $15.47, Original price is $17. You Save 9%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, August 28

Overview

The beloved debut novel about an affluent Indian family forever changed by one fateful day in 1969, from the author of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • MAN BOOKER PRIZE WINNER

Compared favorably to the works of Faulkner and Dickens, Arundhati Roy’s modern classic is equal parts powerful family saga, forbidden love story, and piercing political drama. The seven-year-old twins Estha and Rahel see their world shaken irrevocably by the arrival of their beautiful young cousin, Sophie. It is an event that will lead to an illicit liaison and tragedies accidental and intentional, exposing “big things [that] lurk unsaid” in a country drifting dangerously toward unrest. Lush, lyrical, and unnerving, The God of Small Things is an award-winning landmark that started for its author an esteemed career of fiction and political commentary that continues unabated.

Praise for The God of Small Things

“Dazzling . . . as subtle as it is powerful.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“[The God of Small Things] offers such magic, mystery, and sadness that, literally, this reader turned the last page and decided to reread it. Immediately. It’s that haunting.”USA Today

“The quality of Ms. Roy’s narration is so extraordinary—at once so morally strenuous and so imaginatively supple—that the reader remains enthralled all the way through.”The New York Times Book Review

“A novel of real ambition must invent its own language, and this one does.”—John Updike, The New Yorker

“Outstanding. A glowing first novel.”Newsweek

“Splendid and stunning.”The Washington Post Book World

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812979657
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/16/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 25,824
Product dimensions: 7.96(w) x 5.12(h) x 0.76(d)

About the Author

Arundhati Roy was trained as an architect. She has worked as a production designer and written the screenplays for two films. She lives in New Delhi. This is her first book.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The God of Small Things"
by .
Copyright © 2008 Arundhati Roy.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

John Updike

A novel of real ambition must invent its own language, and this one does.... A Tiger Woodsian debut.

Reading Group Guide

1. Discuss the narrative structure of The God of Small Things, which intertwines scenes from the past and the present, and Arundhati Roy’s writing style. Why do you suppose the author chose not to unfold the narrative in a more linear way?

2. Share your thoughts about the novel’s setting and the impression the author creates of rural India. What universal themes are there in The God of Small Things that transcend the specific time and place in which the story is set?

3. Ammu is described as being "an unmixable mix. The infinite tenderness of motherhood and the reckless rage of a suicide bomber." How are these dual aspects of her personality evident throughout the story? Is Ammu a good mother? Why or why not?

4. How would you characterize Baby Kochamma? Why does she not only take pleasure in other peoples’ grief and misfortune but actively seeks to perpetuate it? Why does Baby Kochamma harbor such resentment toward Ammu and the twins in particular?

5. Describe the dynamics of the Ipe household, including Mammachi’s relationship with each of her children. How do these dynamics change once Margaret Kochamma and Sophie Mol arrive?

6. Pappachi’s Moth "tormented him and his children and his children’s children." What is the significance of Pappachi’s Moth, both to him and, by extension, to his family? Why is the image of the Moth associated most often with Rahel?

7. Discuss the class differences among the characters in the novel, using Ammu’s and Velutha’s families as examples. To what extent are their lives shaped by the caste into which they’re born? Why does Vellya Paapen go to Mammachi and reveal what he knows about his son and Ammu, and why is he willing to kill Velutha because of it?

8. Discuss the chain of events that led to both Sophie Mol’s acci­dent and Velutha’s murder. Why does Margaret Kochamma blame Estha for her daughter’s drowning, while Chacko vents his rage at Ammu? Does anyone bear responsibility for Sophie Mol’s death, or was it simply a tragic accident?

9. How do religion and politics factor into the characters’ lives? Why does Comrade Pillai tell Inspector Mathew that Velutha does not have the backing of his political party? Would the Comrade’s support have made a difference in saving Velutha’s life?

10. Baby Kochamma, Mammachi, and Kochu Maria devise a plan to save the family’s reputation by claiming that Ammu was raped by Velutha. "It wasn’t entirely their fault, though, that the whole thing spun out of control like a deranged top." Are they account­able, at least in part, for Velutha’s murder? Why or why not?

11. How is marriage portrayed in The God of Small Things, particularly that of Mammachi and Pappachi? In general, how are the women in the story treated by men? What examples are there of double standards, such as Mammachi’s willingness to overlook Chacko’s indiscretions but not Ammu’s affair?

12. Why does Baby Kochamma manipulate Estha and Rahel into falsely confessing that they had been kidnapped by Velutha? Later Rahel questions whether they were deceived into doing what they did and ultimately conclude that she and Estha "knew that they had been given a choice." Is it fair to lay blame on these two children for believing they needed to save their mother? How does this incident continue to affect Rahel into adulthood?

13. The Love Laws "lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much." Which characters in the book defy the Love Laws? Were you surprised at Rahel and Estha’s intimacy towards the end of the novel? Why or why not?

14. After Velutha’s death, it is "the end of living" for Ammu, Estha, and Rahel. How is this sentiment born out for each of these three characters? Is there hope yet for Estha and Rahel?

15. What does Rahel, as an adult, see differently about the circumstances surrounding that defining day of her childhood? In what ways has Ayemenem changed during the years of her absence–her family’s house, the river, the factory, the History House? Has anything stayed the same?

16. What is your overall impression of The God of Small Things? Why do you suppose the author chose to conclude with a scene depicting Ammu and Velutha making love by the river?

Interviews

On Tuesday, May 19th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Arundhati Roy, author of The GOD OF SMALL THINGS.


Moderator: Welcome to barnesandnoble.com, Arundhati Roy! We are so pleased that you could fit us in to your busy tour schedule to discuss your acclaimed novel THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS.



Dale H. from Williamsburg, VA: Your use of the English language in this book is very intriguing and highly original. It isn't to my ear British or American English. You seem to invent syntax. My question is this Did you borrow a form of storytelling from Indian oral traditions? And secondly, how would you describe your own writing style or "voice"?

Arundhati Roy: I don't describe it, in the sense that I have no perspective on my own language. I've often said that language is the skin [of] my throat...so I don't spend a lot of time analzying or thinking about it or defining it.



Taylor from Springfield: What was the reaction in India to your book and its success? Secondly, why do you think there has been such a popular resurgence in interest and appreciation of Indian novelists? A past issue of The New Yorker magazine was devoted to them. Congratulations on the Booker Prize!

Arundhati Roy: The reaction in India in many ways was the same as the reaction of the world. People have reacted to the emotional heart of the book. In India there has been some negative reaction. A man filed a criminal case against me for corrupting public morality. There was some trouble from the government in Kerala. But other than that the reaction has been the same as everywhere else in the world. There are writers from all sorts of places which are ex-colonies that somehow bring a new way of writing and thinking in English. These countries, truly, are now going through troubled times, and the moral dilemmas they are going through are huge, and therefore the stories are huge.



Leslie from Denver, Co: I haven't read THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS but have heard such wonderful things about it. My book club will be choosing it for our next discussion. Can you tell us in your own words what it is about? Thanks -- I love hearing how authors describe their own books.

Arundhati Roy: Unfortunately, this author doesn't describe her books, because I think a story is the simplest way of describing a complex world, and I can't simplify it any further.



Emily Berry from Baltimore, MD: At the beginning of your novel you distinguish quite clearly between "the god of small things" and "the god of large things." Is this distinction one that carries special force or weight for a nontraditional Westerner? For someone making the transition from a traditional society and culture to modernism? On what grounds should this distinction appeal to members of contemporary Western culture?

Arundhati Roy: Well, to answer the second part, since I am not a part of contemporary Western culture I can't speak for it. For me the book is about connections and how the smallest things connect to the biggest things. And thereby create the texture which eventually becomes human history.



Blake Katz from Santa Fe, NM: I read your book, and though I enjoyed the language, I did not find anything necessarily positive or redeeming in its message. In your view, is it necessary to find something redeeming in any of your characters? Do you think any of the characters have redeeming qualities? Or is the search for such qualities by the reader irrelevant? If so, why?

Arundhati Roy: Well, I often say a story is like the surface of water, and you can see what you wish to see in it. The book never offers you one solution or one way of seeing things. It is about how there is tragedy, happiness, sadness, little fish of shame in a sea of glory. It isn't about something redeeming or not, it is a view of the world, and there is everything in it.



Karin H from Charlotte, NC: You must have had a rich set of experiences growing up to write such an interesting book. Is this book at all reflective of your life? Do you have a special affinity or similarity to any of the characters?

Arundhati Roy: Well, for me, fiction is philosophy...a meditation about the world. This book is located very close to me, but it is not autobiographical. It is located from the clay of the world that I know and located in the village that I grew up in.



Felix Reategui from Lima, Peru: I find Naipaul an extraordinary writer, though I've often wondered how acute his views are about Indian civilization and people. Do you recognize your huge and extremely varied country in his writings? What are your feelings towards him? Do you have him on your mind for your creative fiction? (By the way, THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS is extraordinary -- needless to say, no?) Thanks.

Arundhati Roy: I think that Naipaul is an extraordinary writer. The great thing about him is he is so much in control of his art. You have to admire his vision.



Paul from Morris Plains, NJ: How did you get this book published? Were you at all surprised at the tremendous success your book had with reviewers and readers alike?

Arundhati Roy: Well, it seemed as if the stars were right, and the waters parted in a total magical way. But quite simply, someone that I know who read my book sent it to an agent in England. They read it and took the next plane to India. That's how it got published.



Nelson from London: When are you going to write another book?

Arundhati Roy: Don't know.



Nicole from Sudbury, MA: Is it true that it took you five years to write this book? Did you really write for five hours a day? Wow!

Arundhati Roy: Not five hours a day -- a little less, especially in the initial stages. I wrote for about four. But it did take me four and half years to write it.



Barbara C. from Syracuse: I am interested in your religious background. Are you Syrian Christian? Do you know when Syrian Christians first arrived in India? Why did they emigrate there? Syrian Christians are obviously a distinctive, peculiar minority in India. What function does this serve in the novel?

Arundhati Roy: The Syrian Christians didn't emigrate. They are a minority not just in India but also in Kerala, the southernmost state of India. In my book, it doesn't really matter whether they are people belonging to another religion. Kerala is a unique state. Some of the greatest religious figures lived there. The book is really about how these edifices that are constructed by the human intellect are leveled by human nature. It is more about biology than history.



Cary Carson from Newport: What would you identify as the universal themes in your novel? I see for instance gender relations, child abuse, the legacy of Western imperialism/colonialism in non-Western society, class, and the impact of Western technologies on a traditional society as a few. Am I warm?

Arundhati Roy: Well, I think it is a book about love and loss and childhood and really about [how] since the dawn of time human societies have found ways to divide themselves up and make war and love across these divisions.



Martin from Boston, MA: Who are some of your literary influences? Are you a fan of Kipling or Gabriel García Márquez?

Arundhati Roy: I am an immense fan of Kipling -- I could recite him before I could read. I don't necessarily agree with his stated views on India, but I think he was a great writer. Joyce, Nabokov...Marquez is great but I don't think an influence. Magic realism isn't really my genre.



Janine from Yarmouth: Do you plan to do any more work on films or screenwriting?

Arundhati Roy: I don't have any plans, and I don't know what I am going to do.



Ritu Bontha from Houston, TX: I enjoyed THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS very much, particularly the poetic prose in which it is written. I wondered if you considered Velutha the "god of small things" or if the title is simply a metaphor. Also, I read much of the book following Rahel as the heroine but began to wonder towards the end if Ammu was the true "heroine." Or perhaps there was no hero to speak of. Have you written anything else (I know that there are two screenplays) that are available to us to read? I'd also like to know when you may be in Houston, Texas.

Arundhati Roy: Well, as I said, I don't want to legislate who is the heroine. I want everyone to draw what they want from the story. The god of small things is the inversion of what they think of god as. It is a powerless god in a way. A god of loss.And no, the screenplays haven't been published.



Melanie L. from San Diego, CA: What is your view of the special significance of fraternal twins? Does one usually find that of the two, one is stronger, one dependent? How would you describe the relationship between Estha and Rahel? Why did you choose to write about twins?

Arundhati Roy: For me it was somehow to explore something that was intrinsically brutal in our natures. They were really doing that; they loved each other with an inarticulate, aching love. This was interesting to me because you don't really understand love until you understand its brutality. So that is why I chose to write about them.



Paul from Fort Myers, FL: Your language is very colorful and almost musical -- full of metaphors. Did you find the words came easily, or did you do a lot of rewriting? What type of writing schedule did you keep? Congratulations on the success of your novel -- well deserved!

Arundhati Roy: No, I didn't do a lot of rewriting. I am not searching for words, and I don't suffer while I write in that sense. But I am quite disciplined in my writing. I worked every day on the novel when I was writing it.



Renee from Middlebrook: I really loved your playfulness with punctuation, capitalization, and spelling ("Infinnate Joy"). It was so refreshing. How and why did you decide to use this play on words?

Arundhati Roy: I don't know the answer to that. I just think that when you are somehow in touch with your childhood and still remember how to play, these things happen.



Moderator: Thank you for this fascinating discussion of THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS. Do you have any closing comments for your online audience?

Arundhati Roy: I don't want to talk any more than what is in my book. Thank you.


Introduction

The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading of Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things. We hope they will give you a number of interesting angles from which to consider this mesmerizing work of fiction, a novel that is simultaneously mysterious, poetic, and romantic.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

God of Small Things 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 237 reviews.
SandyID More than 1 year ago
This book is skillfully written showing how difficult life can become for children and their parents when traditions and familiar things are changed forever as the influence of a great nation brings its own forms of education and traditions to bear on another great but politically weaker nation. The needs of the young and helpless must not be overlooked and dealt with harshly and indifferently in these circumstances, as the authoress cleverly and clearly portrays.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really don't understand where the bad reviews are coming from. In all honesty, this is not a light read, but its genius! Roy's syntax and diction further highlight the tradgic events of the story. It is dazzling - I couldn't put it down! I found myself thinking about it even when I wasn't reading it. It's perfect.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
The God of Small Things, the first (and so far, only) novel by Indian writer, Arundhati Roy, was written between 1992 and 1996. This (semi-autobiographical) story takes place in the village of Ayemenem and the town of Kottayam, near Cochin in Kerala, and is set principally during two time periods: December 1969 and 23 years later. The main characters are Esthappen (Estha) and Rahel, seven-year-old two-egg (i.e. non-identical) twins, and their mother Ammu. Ammu falls in love with Velutha Paapen, a Paraven (Untouchable) who works for the family’s Pickle Factory, a man the twins already list amongst their most-loved. But even in 1969, with a Communist Government, parts of India are still firmly in the grip of the Caste system. By breaking the "Love Laws," or "The laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much”, Ammu and the twins set in motion “The Terror”. The manipulations of Ammu’s aunt, Baby Kochamma, are instrumental in bringing down The Terror, and her subsequent cruelty to Ammu and the twins will leave readers gasping.  As well as commenting on the Caste system and Class discrimination in general, the novel examines Indian history and politics, the taboos of conventional society, and religion. But more than anything, this is a story about love and betrayal.  The innocent observations of 7-year-olds, their interpretation of unfamiliar words and phrases, the (typically Indian) Capitalisation of Significant Words, the running together of and splitting apart of words , the phonetic spelling, all are a source of humour and delight in this novel. “It’s an afternoon-mare”, Estha-the-Accurate replied. “She dreams a lot”. Even as Estha is being molested by the Orangedrink Lemondrink man in the Abhilash Talkies, his observations (“Not a moonbeam.”) bring laughter. Echoes, repetitions and resonances abound. Roy is a master of the language: “So futile. Like polishing firewood.” Her prose is luminous. This novel is powerful, moving, tragic. Beautifully written, with wonderful word pictures. This novel demands at least two reads: once to learn the story; a second time to appreciate the echoes and repetitions and understand what the early references mean. It deserves a third reading to fully appreciate the prose, the descriptive passages. On this, my third reading, I read parts I would swear I had not read earlier. And I had tears in my eyes very early in the novel. I loved this book when I first read it: I love it even more now. I remain hopeful that Arundhati Roy will share her considerable literary talents with her eager readers in the form of another novel. 
Jennifer Wong More than 1 year ago
this is the second time I have read this amazing book. It is a difficult story to read but touches on the basis of hate, which is fear. The story is beautifically written and the reader is captivated from the beginning. It is a tragic story and the hero is Velutha the villian is the unhappy jealous family. I will read this book again.
GlassReader More than 1 year ago
I have had a love affair with this novel for over 10 years now. I read a lot and this novel stands in a class on its own. I have never read another novel that has come close to matching the grace of her delicious writing style. The story itself is small, but the words dance across the pages in a way that makes you stop and pause on the most beautiful ones. I could not put this book down. It is one of the very few novels that I continue to read over and over again and it saddens me that Arundhati Roy never wrote another novel of this kind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I often re-read my favorite books, but the moment I finished this one I had to start from the beginning. Captivating and complex, it is a beautifully told story. I would recommend it to friends and family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The one thing that stuck with me even after I read this book were the twins. They are so real to me that I feel everything they are feeling, I cherished all of the little sayings they had, the childish things they did and their relationship with their mother. They're so likable you feel like you know them. I read this book slowly because I wanted to capture all of the beautiful language of Mrs.Roy and the atmosphere she created and I recommend the same for you.
kaydeeKD More than 1 year ago
I had to force myself to finish this book. The author frequently switch from one time frame to another. In the end, it was an interesting story but the attention to detail made it a bit tedious to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A soon as I started to read God of Small Things, I felt it was going to be one of those books that I will never finish. Guess what? I did finish it. It was a bit confusing. The author sometimes went into great dept. Still, I must admit that this book had beautiful language at parts. Her description was great but not perfect. Estha and Rahel¿s ambassador titles were really funny!! I couldn¿t help feeling sorry for Ammu and the unfairness of the society she lived in. The author¿s greater message was very important. I don¿t regret reading it all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can understand how other reviewers found the book to be somewhat confusing and expansive but ultimatly I thought it was very well written and utterly haunting. I read the book once and although I understood the plot of the story I really only appreciated the nuances and detail after finishing it for the second time. Once you know what will happen in the novel, you can understand sentences that otherwise seem random and confusing. Ex. 'A young man with an old man's mouth' makes more sense once you realize the fate of one of the novel's characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Finishing this book is no easy task. Many have commented on the difficulty of keeping track of where in the timeline of the story one is at. This isn't made any easier by the sumptuous detail one has to sift through to make sense of things. Strangely, it remimded me of my experience reading Vonnegut's Slaughter House 5. The effort it took to read either of these works actually adds to the depth of the experience upon finishing. Much like her politics, Roy doesn't let her reader off the hook. The way she spins her web with her images is unique and unparalelled.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a book that, years after reading it, I still think about.
Devoynne Prophet More than 1 year ago
this is quite simply a MUST-READ. just do it. and then read it again. and then buy a copy for all of the readers in your life.
Lori Ann George More than 1 year ago
gorgeous. haunting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Reading this book is intoxicating in a sense; the prose is rich and paints incredible pictures and characters. But it plays upon one theme and never fully explains it. The plot ping-pongs distractingly between present and past, and never does a full job of connecting the dots between the two. I got to the end feeling a bit cheated - all these gorgeous words and interesting characters, and what the heck happened? A better flashback/historical fiction book is "The Madonnas of Leningrad".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the book. I loved reading about a period of India's history that I had not read before. I liked the way the book made me feel uneasy with some of the characters they are unpredictable and complex like most of us.
KyBorn More than 1 year ago
This book could have benefitted immensely from the pen of a skilled editor. There is a reason that the language of poetry is generally limited to shorter works - most people can't pull it off well and consistently for 320 pages. Roy is one of those people.
The adult characters in the book are completely underdeveloped. The only ones that seemed real at all were the childhood Rahel and Estha.
I find it interesting that many reviewers refer to Roy's artistic foreshadowing; to me it was not so much foreshadowing as shouting. It was not difficult to predict the general details of the climax within the first few chapters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful metaphors throughout. A story taking me in all directions as I’m transported back and forth between the characters different perspectives of the world around them.
EmilyLowe More than 1 year ago
The Big Takeaway From The God of Small Things “And The Air was full of Thoughts and Things to Say. But at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. The Big Things lurk unsaid inside.” This quote beautifully sums up Arundhati Roy’s New York Times best-selling novel The God of Small Things. A story that follows the lives of twins Estha and Rahel as they grow up in Ayemenem India at seven years old. Roy’s debut novel captures the small things surrounding major events as well as mature topics such as death and sexual abuse. The God of Small Things is set in 1969 in India as the government is becoming more and more unstable. While the country is dealing with political turmoil, Estha and Rahel are preparing for their cousin Sophie Mol to visit from London. Although this event seems insignificant to most, Roy is able to show through her writing the emotions and thoughts a young child feels when such a small thing happens. In contrast, Roy also effortlessly shows the emotions a child feels after something tragic happens. In this case, Sophie Mol dies at the age of nine in an accident down by the river. Additionally, the book also shows the twins lives when they are grown which allows the reader to see how their childhood affected their adult lives. In this book, the two main characters are Estha and Rahel. The majority of the book is from the point of view of when they were seven years old. Both Estha and Rahel are protected by their innocence to the seemingly unfair world around them, however, after the death of Sophie Mol, they are both exposed to grief and true loss. Throughout the book, the readers can see how different cultures deal with tragedy and especially how this affects children. In addition to this, the contrast of Sophie Mol to the twins shows the similarities that all children seem to have had because of their youth, as well as their differences they have because of their culture. One of my favorite aspects of this novel is the way Arundhati Roy portrayed innocence through Estha and Rahel. In most cases, one thinks of innocence as being blissfully ignorant of the harsh aspects of the world. However, in The God of Small Things, the twins are very aware of their unfair reality. Their innocence makes them perceive and cope with it differently compared to the adults in the book such as Ammu and Chacko who with age, have lost all of their innocence, and therefore cope with tragedy very differently. In my opinion, innocence goes hand in hand with the underlying theme that when age changes so do one's innocence, which affects how one copes with grief, blame, and guilt. Arundhati Roy also did a great job of allowing the reader to be informed about the big differences between first and third world countries while simultaneously entertaining them with her engaging plot. Throughout the novel, readers are able to relate to the characters’ qualities that are part of the human condition such as internal and family conflict, as well as reading about cultural differences that play a big role in the characters’ lives such as the caste system. This can best be seen when you compare Sophie Mol and Margaret Komocha (who both come from a first world country) to Ammu and the twins (who have been raised in a third world country). Roy’s ability to intertwine the shared human condition with cultural differences makes this novel not only entertaining but informative.
Othemts on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This challenging novel tells the story of a multi-generational family in southernmost India whose lives are changed in one day by a tragic incident. While the main story is set in 1969, Roy moves back and forth throughout the time focusing mainly on the young twins Estha and Rahel and the adults they become as a result of the novel. Roy touches on post-colonialism, conflicts between Christianity and native beliefs, communism versus the status quo, and the caste system. While the story is heartbreaking and sometimes brutal, Roy has a way with words and composes some very beautiful sentences.
tututhefirst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The winner of the Booker Prize in 1997, this exquisite novel about women's role and lives in India in the 1960's and onward, is part of an ongoing series we are reading at our library showing the roles and stories of women in a variety of cultures. This one blew us all away both from the story itself, and from the pure beauty of the language.The story of a multi-generational family features a grandmother who manages a Pickle factory (actually what we think of as chutney), who is almost completely blind, who plays the violin, and who endures incredible beatings from her husband every night after he retires and has nothing to do. It is only after their son Chacko returns to the area having been divorced from his English wife and threatens his father with dire consequences that the old man stops beating his wife. Mammachi (the grandmother), while she certainly doesn't like being beaten, doesn't seem to feel there is anything out of the ordinary about it, and certainly doesn't feel empowered herself to end the beatings.Then there is the daughter Ammu, divorced mother of the "two-egg" twins Rahel and Estah, who engages in an illicit affair with an untouchable, a man adored by the children. She has not given the twins a last name because she is considering going back to her maiden name, but feels between her father and her abusive husband, there's not much to choose from and so doesn't want to be associated with either.There's another auntie who converted to Roman Catholicism so she could be close to a priest for whom she had fallen, even going so far as to enter a convent. When she realized he was not going to leave the priesthood and marry her, she leaves the convent, returns to the family home, and adds to the general mayhem. Religion doesn't seem to play a major role in her life and she is livid when she discovers the good Father has left the RC priesthood, converted to hinduism, and taken a hindu wife. The story actually opens with a funeral. Sophie "Mol", Chacko's daughter, and her English mother have come for a visit at Christmas time. Sophie Mol drowns, and the story starts with her funeral and progress backwards and forwards from there. The time line is somewhat difficult to follow at first, but the lyricism of the words strung together and made up with perfect precision to describe a thought makes the reader forget any problem with story line. This is a book that belongs in the library of every serious lover of literature. It's one I certainly plan to read again, and again. In fact, I want to push aside all my other scheduled and waiting TBRs and sink into a cozy chair and read this one again. As a cultural exposè it is excellent. As an all you can eat buffet of exquisite language, it's indescribable.
kairosdreaming on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At 321 pages this book took me a whole week to read when it should have only been a night. I could only bring myself to read a chapter at a time it was so tedious to get through.It takes a brother and sister, twins, and jumps back and forth through their life. Sometimes it veers into a little background of the side characters but overall it is about Rahel and her brother Estha. When they are younger the tale is about the visit of their cousin Sophie Mol and her subsequent death. So much of the book is leading up to her death that when it finally happens it is really quite anticlimactic and doesn't even grace a full page of the book.On the other side, one of the un-touchables frequently mentioned in the book has his beating and death graphically described for some time and the sex scene between him and the twin's mother is almost the whole chapter of the last book. Neither of which alludes to the rest of the story as a whole.While Roy is lauded for her writing, I found that she used a few brilliant "literary" phrases; over and over and over and over. To the point where I kept feeling like I was reading the same chapter again and again. If I never hear or see the words "Puff" and "Two-egg Twins" again I will be exceedingly happy, as she seemed to use them on almost every page.As far as the plot of the book I felt that the characters were uninteresting or connect-able. It felt like you kept reading to go nowhere in the story.Overall I just didn't like the book. I know that many people do but my thought is that just because it is an important social issue, it doesn't make the book worth reading. Those social issues could be better explored through better writing.
jwhenderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book is set in 1969. In the state of Kerala, on the southernmost tip of India, a skyblue Plymouth with chrome tailfins is stranded on the highway amid a Marxist workers' demonstration. Inside the car sit two-egg twins Rahel and Esthappen, and so begins their tale.... They fashion a childhood for themselves in the shade of the wreck that is their family - their lonely, lovely mother, Ammu (who loves by night the man her children love by day), their blind grandmother, Mammachi (who plays Handel on her violin), their beloved uncle Chacko (Rhodes scholar, pickle baron, radical Marxist, bottom-pincher), their enemy, Baby Kochamma (ex-nun and incumbent grandaunt), and the ghost of an imperial entomologist's moth (with unusually dense dorsal tufts). When their English cousin, Sophie Mol, and her mother, Margaret Kochamma, arrive on a Christmas visit, Esthappen and Rahel learn that Things Can Change in a Day. Their innocence fades as their lives morph into new, ugly shapes. What changes can even cease forever, beside their river "graygreen. I did not enjoy this book as much as most but nonetheless found it fascinating.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really didn't think I was going to like this after the first few pages. I had to read them a few times just to get my bearings. Once I was through the first twenty or so, I was off and running, however, and I'm glad I persevered. This is a clevery written book, which keeps its secrets right to the end, past and present narratives converging on a single traumatic event in the lives of the characters. Some beautiful, poetic text, helps with the journey. I'm not sure whether I appreciated all the subteties of the story,though, or what goes on between the twins right at the end.
readingwithtea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
On the one hand, this is magnificent. The writing is astonishing ¿ ¿as though his body had the power to snatch its senses inwards (knotted, egg-shaped), away from the surface of his skin, into some deeper more inaccessible recess¿ (which I actually remember from a mock GCSE exam I was set at some point ¿ I recognised the passage in the book!) and Roy has dreamed up an appropriately startling set of circumstances and characters. I¿ve never been to India, but I hope that her description is true to the original, because she manages to capture specific images so clearly and in a manner which foreigners can understand.But I felt disappointed by this 1997 Booker prize winner ¿ there was no semblance of a plot, just anecdotes and episodes back and forth over a century span. I was annoyed by the characters ¿ not one was ¿normal¿; not one really made sense. Something which also struck me as unnecessarily amateurish was the description of one of the main characters ¿ from the author photo on the inside cover, it was transparently autobiographical, which I found lazy. Some of the plot elements (an episode of child abuse, an episode of incest, alcoholic husbands all over the place) seem clichéd, in that they seem to turn up in every book I read!I wish I¿d enjoyed this more ¿ from the reputation of the book, I feel like I must have missed something ¿ but really I was very surprised by the success of the novel given my poor reaction to it.