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4.1 out of 5 stars355
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 18 October 2013
This book is extremely well-written. Roy has an astonishing talent for metaphor, simile and characterisation. It is a book worth reading and a deeply thoughtful and poignant and poetic meditation on tragedy and the nature of man and man's cruelty, which runs alongside the actual story like the river. One major criticism, and it has been mentioned in previous reviews, is that the chronology is confusing. The first few pages feel like you are brushing off cobwebs and pushing aside tropical leaves to enter this exotic world. So we are instantly transported by the power of her language into the scene. However, as she takes you further into the story, you feel a little suffocated by the detail and towards the end, bored. It feels as if she can't bring herself to get to the point, and justifies this by saying, well all good stories are told for the sake of the story, not for what happens. Fair enough. And it is true that we already know part of the tragedy from the beginning and are teased instead with wanting to know "how" it happens. And Roy keeps us curious. But as a reader you still think - get to the point. I also had to re-read the first few chapters to re-work out who was who and where I was in the sequence of events. You could argue that what was undoubtedly a conscious decision not to run the plot chronologically was better than a linear narrative, but I personally got fed up with it. I thought that the description, imagery and playful word associations clouded over what could have been a fascinating insight into one of the major themes. However, there can be no doubt of Roy's superb talent for descriptive and atmospheric prose and her ability to write straight from the random consciousness of children, which she does extremely convincingly throughout the book. If it weren't for the shifting time line of the plot, and a couple of unanswered questions at the end, I would have given it 5.
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on 27 February 2001
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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on 8 January 2010
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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on 10 August 2000
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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on 18 December 2010
I nearly gave up reading this book and was not surprised at the predictability of the terrible events of "that day" which the book had been building up to. It was the all to brief glimpse into the two love affairs right at the end that I felt cheated. The God of Small Things was for me a frustrating read as it weaved the background to the event through a long and drawn out detailed account, often seemingly gratuitous. The one character which stood out was Baby Kochamma, an unlikely ex-nun, who seemed particularly odious. The other characters were to my mind quite bland and the fleeting intimate relationships at the end of the book seemed to spring from very little. The setting of 1969 Southern India provided little interest and the time references such as The Sound of Music again predictable. Roy put numerous troubling events into the book: domestic violence, an abused child, divorce, the untouchables to name just a few but it all lacked any cohesion and appeared jumbled.
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on 27 February 2016
Like many others that I've spoken to, the chronological jumping around makes you feel like you're trying to untangle a ball of wool inside a washing machine. But as the different themes come together, you find yourself at one with the characters - sometimes feeling gut-wrenchingly sick, other times filled with heart-warming laughter. I found myself re-reading whole chapters just because I could never imagine English being written so beautifully and having such a powerful emotional impact. As one reviewer below says, you may have to get to page 70 - put the book down for a couple of weeks, and then re-read it from page1. Only then will all the subtle references to the past and the character chronology becomes less baffling. Thereafter, the momentum on the second read will allow you to pound through the rest of the book in one evening. If you can get past page 70, you too will have this in your top 5 best books of all time.
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on 25 September 2008
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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on 4 March 2015
I gave up half way through, which is very unusual for me, as I tend to keep on, hoping it will get better. I may have carried on just to find out exactly how Sophie Mol died, but I couldn't even sustain enough interest for that. Some of the descriptions were good, but the constant jumping from past to present was far too confusing.
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on 12 August 2015
I was very very disappointed with this book. The author is very good at flowery language with lots of metaphors. However the story is practically non existent. There is no continuity and the reader is never sure what the time period is. It was only a cheap book but I say don't waste any money on it at all.
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on 1 November 2014
The best use of the English language I have ever read - sometimes the paragraph's were so beautifully written that I re-read it time after time. Wonderful, wonderful read. I will make sure to read all her book as they touch the essence of humanity and the 'actors' come to life.
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