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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I actually grieved heavily for the people in this book
This is a fable of modern india played out through the lives of the central family - an india that is crippled by outer, inner and secret burdens: caste/social control, duty/tradition, and the essential heartbreaking element of this novel: taboo. The plot is impossible to delineate and is executed so adroitly and delicately that rather than just being told the story...
Published on 8 Jan. 2010 by arthazaed

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unengaging and Overly Clever
Being an Indian literature fan I really felt I had to make an effort with this book. I don't think the style of writing is for everybody, I was irritated by Rushdiesque attempts at clever use of language, and even on the third attempt I was still not interested in who the characters were or what had happened to them. I found I was putting it down for longer and longer...
Published 21 months ago by J. G. Cheseldine


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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I actually grieved heavily for the people in this book, 8 Jan. 2010
This review is from: The God of Small Things (Paperback)
This is a fable of modern india played out through the lives of the central family - an india that is crippled by outer, inner and secret burdens: caste/social control, duty/tradition, and the essential heartbreaking element of this novel: taboo. The plot is impossible to delineate and is executed so adroitly and delicately that rather than just being told the story directly, you realise or suspect by degrees what is going on - much as it is when we might suspect our lovers are having an affair and we build up evidence not only from the present but even the distant past! And yet we remain unsure.

In order to accomplish this novel, Roy has had to pass the english language through a prism and bend it round corners, producing some of the most celestial prose I've ever read and some of the most haunting metaphors.

Within the family, issues of sexual abuse, bereavement and true love are hemmed in by taboo: they remain, as the title goes 'small things' with heartbreaking results, while all around the characters, there exists an india that is luscious and fragrant and well ordered by tradition.

However the sheer beauty of the prose carried me through to the end of the novel - leaving me not only genuinely grieving for this family, but also committed to trying to be more compassionate and understanding in my own life.
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63 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth persevering with!, 27 Feb. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The God of Small Things (Paperback)
Having read and heard lots of fairly negative reviews, I began this book rather apprehensively. And, seemingly like many other people, found it quite difficult to get into, and very nearly gave up after the first few chapters. I'm really not a fan of flowery language just for the sake of it, especially when it makes it difficult to understand what's going on properly! And I thought it was going to be one of those types of books. But then about halfway through, I started really getting into it.
The story jumps about a lot, with twins Estha and Rahel as children in parts and adults in other parts. But each chapter gives you a little clue at the beginning as to which era it is talking about. The twins as children have all sorts of little childish phrases, songs and thoughts that not only portray their playful innocence but also lend the reader a hint as to which period the chapter is currently in. Some reviewers have said that the jumping about in time made the story unnecessarily difficult to follow, and was done just for artistic prize-winning purposes, but I have to disagree. Had the story been told chronologically, it wouldn't have been anywhere near as atmospheric. There were parts of the book where the most important point to get across was the sheer sadness and melancholy. To have had a full prior knowledge of why the sadness was there would have jaded the scene with the reader's own reaction or interpretation of the preceding events. In real life when you meet people with a story or a history behind them, you meet the person and get to know their character first, and then the full story unfolds later on in bits and bobs, just like in this book. Also, that is the way it was for the twins - they didn't really understand the full horror and meaning of what had happened until they grew up. It was a way of showing how the events shaped the twins' lives gradually as they grew to see the significance of each event, without the writer having to spell it out.
It is true that a good story makes a great read, and there are times when over-descriptiveness and too many metaphors can spoil a book and make it boring. But in this case, for me at least, the metaphors combined with the repetitiveness of silly childish chants and phrases made the atmosphere and ambience of the book just right. It also succeeded in bringing me right into the feeling of childhood, with Bar Nowls and Lay Ter (dum dum).
I have to agree with the more positive critics, that this book IS beautifully written. It definitely left me thinking about it for ages afterwards, with each little scene left swimming about in my head for me to daydream away to! I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am now feeling a bit lost until I get stuck into another good book.
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58 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting Prose - The best book I have ever read, 10 Aug. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The God of Small Things (Paperback)
Having read the reviews of others - I simply had to write to protest to comments like 'dull' and 'boring', 'couldn't finish it', 'maybe if I'd travelled in India' bla blah blah. Come on! I love nothing more than a good book - and this, I have to say folks, is one of the most beautifully executed books I have ever read. So much so that I can't think of anyone I know I haven't bought it for or lent it to. I think this author deserves full credit for her efforts and every writing prize there is going. I couldn't even begin thinking about how to write like that. She has a unique talent which I think so many others lack. If I were a writer - I would have wanted to be Roy and written this very book. Don't be put off by the negative reviews on this book - give it a chance. I stumbled on this book by chance - no-one had recommended it to me and I really am glad I picked it up. I don't think that this book is 'hyped' at all. It doesn't get its due credit - I've never read a book that has made me feel so strongly before. In terms of writing talent, it surpasses another of my favourite books - Memoirs of a Geisha - and thats saying something.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth it!, 24 Sept. 2008
This review is from: The God of Small Things (Paperback)
The fact that `The God of Small Things' has won the Booker Prize would initially make anyone think that the book was probably worth a read.

However Roy's individual writing style can make getting into this book and understanding the concepts and plot challenging. Other reviewers have commented on the difficulty in getting to know the characters and associating with them in the plot that frequently switches between past and present. Initially, after the first few chapters, I would have agreed with them; however if you want to fully appreciate this book it is necessary to look further into the book than merely the words on the page. The childish language and descriptive narrative that many readers have expressed dislike with, I think is entirely necessary in creating the right ambiance in the chapters where Rahel and Estha are children. Additionally, the way in which the plot is told is entirely in keeping with how any real life story is discovered, through snippets of information, and not in a chronological list.

The negative reviews of this book I can sympathise with, but unfortunately I have to say that they will be from reviewers who do not want to delve deeper into the Indian meanings, customs and cultures that Roy includes; and instead want everything laid out for them on a plate... Persevere with this book and you will be rewarded!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tray Bong, 25 Sept. 2008
This review is from: The God of Small Things (Paperback)
My first attempt at reading this book took me to page 70, then I gave up. The descriptive language and pointless metaphors annoyed me. I also found the book hard to get into because it kept jumping around between past and present.
Unfortunately, I had to try and read the book again because I was studying it in English. I started, again, from the beginning and persisted with Roy's unique style. Once I had re-reached page 70 I realised that I was enjoying the book much more this time around. The mixed up chronology gives each event more significance and realism, and the jumbled order soon becomes easy enough to follow and understand. Every chapter has its own importance and relevance as in any good book, you just don't know it yet. I think that some knowledge of India and Indian Politics, especially Communism, might help people enjoy the book more because it will make some parts easier to understand.
Overall, it is worth the initial struggle needed to get into this book, because when you do you will be rewarded. It is also ironic that Roy's style is the first thing you hate but the last thing you love.
I would like to finish by urging anyone that gave the book a review of 1 or 2 stars to read it again. Of course, you are entitled to your opinion and if you believe this book to be bad then that is fine. However, you are wrong.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unengaging and Overly Clever, 5 Aug. 2013
By 
J. G. Cheseldine (Gloucestershire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The God of Small Things (Paperback)
Being an Indian literature fan I really felt I had to make an effort with this book. I don't think the style of writing is for everybody, I was irritated by Rushdiesque attempts at clever use of language, and even on the third attempt I was still not interested in who the characters were or what had happened to them. I found I was putting it down for longer and longer periods, and lack of enthusiasm gradually turned to dread at the thought of having to try and read any more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lovely prose sometimes, but a bit of a struggle., 15 May 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The God of Small Things (Paperback)
If the book was half as long I would have liked it more. I thought it was like a very long journey through nice countryside. For the first couple of hundred miles you marvel at the scenery, but after that it all looks the same and you just want to get there. It would be OK, if it had a few more stops on the way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A TREAT!, 2 Aug. 2008
I have reference this book in my previous review and thought I should drop a note here. This book definitely deserves the BOOKER award! The author just transports you to her own world and makes you part of it - and some of the references are just brillant. Roy description of the poor and the rich with reference a candle light is simply cunning! The way she writes about the pickles just makes you imagine the smell of the spices and also reminds of memories of hearing the rain falling on a very dry soil and the earthy smell just come back to you.....

Overall this is a book which can read and re-read over a number of times over and over again! It is a definite MUST HAVE!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The beauty is in the small things, 10 Oct. 2007
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This review is from: The God of Small Things (Paperback)
I was captivated - a story that unfolds with beauty and seduces you onwards providing you teasing snippets, you soon realise the tragedy about to happen but not the full context, like overhearing a conversation and having to get closer and closer until you unravel the whispered secrets. As a wordsmith Ms Roy has produced passages so sumptuous that they have stuck with me long after putting the book down. Yes, at times the book is not the easiest to read, I'd agree with some of the negative reviewers here, I too had to keep jogging my memory as to which character was related to whom and why, but don't let them put you off its so worth the effort.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "It's true. Things can change in a day.", 6 Dec. 2013
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The God of Small Things (Paperback)
Arundhati Roy expressed the subject sentiment several times throughout this superlative novel, and demonstrates how one singular devastating event can impact and collapse the lives of numerous individuals. Roy is a marvelous story-teller. She says that it took her four years to write the novel and in the process the characters became more real than the so-called real world. And I can believe it. She reveals certain facts about a character, and then backs and fills across time, revealing more, so that the character's actions on that fateful day, and the aftermath, seem to be inevitable. At one point in the novel, the author describes the thin line of hair, extending downward from the navel of her female protagonist, which is like the shaft of an arrow, leading downward to that more substantive arrowhead, pointing the direction, "for inexperienced lovers." Likewise, there was a narrative arrow throughout this finely polished novel, pointing the direction to the denouement.

This is a novel of India, in all its glorious complexity. Fittingly, it starts with the monsoon of page 1, the meteorological phenomenon that has so largely shaped the country. Most of the novel is set in Kerala, the very green southwestern state, which has a far higher percentage of Christians (and in more recent times, Marxists) than the rest of the country. Ammu decides to forgo the traditional arranged marriage, seeks her fate via Bombay and an ill-starred love marriage to a man who would become an alcoholic wife-beater. He takes a position as the manager on a tea plantation in Assam, in the far northeast of India, and there the twins, Estha and Rahel are born. The twins are principal characters throughout the story. Ammu's brother Chacko has a scholarship to Oxford, where he marries an Englishwoman, Margaret, and they have a daughter, Sophie Mol. Both Ammu and Chacko divorce their spouses and return to the ancestral home in Kerala. The reader learns in the first few pages that Sophie Mol dies in India a few days after arriving on her first visit. And it is that death that truly changes the lives of the other characters.

Complementing her literary abilities, Roy is a social activist. In this novel she addresses that somewhat unique and most invidious Indian problem: the cast system. True, almost all societies seem to evolve a hierarchical structure, but in India the cast system seem to be more formal and rigid, lurking just below the surface in a democratic society. Another principal character is Velutha, a Paravan, a caste considered "untouchable." In the not so distant past, the Paravans had to crawl backwards, erasing their footprints, with a broom. Roy also critically examines the status of women in Indian society, particularly those unlucky enough to become divorced. And although the British ruled India, officially and not, for a long time, their impact on the country is barely noted. A far more dominant theme is "globalization," though "call centers" are never mentioned. For example: Chacko's already cited Oxford scholarship; Rahel spends a brief period working behind bullet-proof glass in a convenience store in Washington, DC, receiving crude propositions; the family cook, Kochu Maria, has her inner spirit meeting the "soaps" and Hulk Hogan, of the World Wrestling Federation; and the Cochin airport scene is filled with the "guest workers," somewhat wealthier, returning from their jobs in the Gulf. In terms of the leadership in political power struggles, Roy sardonic view of the Communist leader, Comrad Pillai: "...what he really needed was the process of war more than the outcome of victory. War could have been the stallion the he rode, part of, if not all, the way to the Legislative Assembly..." Or other observations: "Civilization's fear of nature, power's fear of powerlessness... police beating was exorcising fear." "It was human history, masquerading as God's purpose."

Roy's prose is luxurious. Consider: "The slow ceiling fan sliced the thick, frightened air into an unending spiral that spun slowly to the floor like the peeled skin of an endless potato." Or: "...hovering the knolls and dells of his memory..." Her societal critiques are incisive, for example: "A war that we have won and lost. The very worst sort of war. A war that has made us adore our conquerors and despise ourselves." "Marry our conquerors, is more like it," Ammu dryly said, referring to Margaret..." And there is much, much else, including how Roy worked in the movie "The Sound of Music," a backdrop for another seminal event, as it were, in the novel.

Roy justly won the Man Booker Award in 1997 for her debut novel. I am stunned by the number of 1-star reviews which can only be partial explained by the fact that it is now a "school assignment novel." Now that Alice Munro has justly won the Nobel Prize, when does Roy start making the "short list"? The answer should be the last word in the novel: "tomorrow." 6-stars.
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The God of Small Things
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (Paperback - 5 May 2004)
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