>> Wednesday, April 06, 2016
More magical than Mistry, more of a rollicking good read than Rushdie, more nerve-tinglingly imagined than Naipaul, here, perhaps, is the greatest Indian novel by a woman. Arundhati Roy has written an astonishingly rich, fertile novel, teeming with life, colour, heart-stopping language, wry comedy and a hint of magical realism.This is one of those reviews where I have to make sure I mention my ratings are purely based on my enjoyment of the book in question. Because this is not a bad book. I wouldn't even contradict those who say it's great. It's just that it was spectacularly not to my taste.
Set against a background of political turbulence in Kerala, Southern India, The God of Small Things tells the story of twins Esthappen and Rahel. Amongst the vats of banana jam and heaps of peppercorns in their grandmother's factory, they try to craft a childhood for themselves amidst what constitutes their family - their lonely, lovely mother, their beloved Uncle Chacko (pickle baron, radical Marxist and bottom-pincher) and their avowed enemy Baby Kochamma (ex-nun and incumbent grand-aunt).
This is the story of twins Esthappen and Rahel, who live in Kerala, in Southern India. Most of it is set in the late 60s, although sections are set later, when the twins are grown. From the later sections we know there's something awful that is going to happen, and after a while we even know what that something is. But the tension ratchets up and up until we actually see it happen.
My problem was that I absolutely hated every minute I was reading this. Pretty much all of the characters (except for the good and honourable unfortunate the awful thing happens to), are vile. And the book wallows in the vileness of people. This goes from big, life-changing evil to mundane, every-day nastiness, which can make just as big an impression. In fact, my most hated character was the twins' great-aunt, Baby Kochamma, a spiteful, repellent character whose evil is mostly of the domestic kind.
Roy creates some really vivid imagery, but loves to juxtapose the richness and colour with the disgusting... her images pause on the pus of the infected diabetic boil, the vomit, the saliva strings as dentures are pulled out of a mouth. It's effective, but that just meant that I spent all the book with my stomach turning.
She also has a clever way with her writing, but she goes overboard with her little trick of making two words come together to create a new one. She plays with words in a way that I should have liked, but I was so annoyed and sickened by all the other stuff going on that it felt annoying instead. On and on and on she went and the writing just pushed me away.
I felt like a bad reader for not liking this, but what can I say, if I didn't, I didn't!
MY GRADE: It was a D for me.