Set in a small town in Kerala, a state located in southwestern India, created on a linguistic basis. The God of Small Things is about a family, seen from the perspective of seven-year-old Rahel. She and her twin brother, Estha, live with their mother, Ammu, who was married to a Bengali, the children’s Baba, but from whom she is divorced.
Ammu and, therefore, the twins seem to live on sufferance in the Ayemenem house with their grandmother, uncle, and grand-aunt Baby. The family owns a pickle factory that comes into conflict with the Communists.
Kerala is famous for its sprawling backwaters and lush green vegetation. Kerala is generally referred to as a tropical paradise of waving palms and wide sandy beaches. But in the book, Kerala State in southern India is evoked through every sense; even a recipe for banana jam appears.
The writing is lush, occasionally to the point of overgrowth, but always inventive. The flow of words is both natural and startling: “Rahel’s new teeth were waiting inside her gums, like words inside a pen.” Roy’s capacity for simile and metaphor seems boundless.
This highly stylized novel tells the story of one very fractured family from the southernmost tip of India. Here is an unhappy family unhappy in its own way, and through flashbacks and flashforwards The God of Small Things unfolds the secrets of these characters’ unhappiness.
First-time novelist Arundhati Roy twists and reshapes language to create an arresting, startling sort of precision.
The average reader of mainstream fiction may have a tough time working through Roy’s prose, but those with a more literary bent to their usual fiction inclinations should find the initial struggle through the dense prose a worthy price for this lushly tragic tale.
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. Roy’s novel is mesmerizing at times, and the story of the “two-egg twins”, Estha and Rahel, is compelling and strange.
According to Random House, The God of Small Things is “Sweet and heartbreaking, ribald and profound, this is a novel to set beside those of Salman Rushdie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.”