The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy – 5/10

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.

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