The God of Small Things

Rating: +

Arundhati Roy

First, for general impressions, I really enjoyed this book. The writing was gorgeous! All of the descriptions were so evocative and I really had a clear mental picture of the surroundings. I had to make myself not rush through the book, because I knew I would miss something if I did but I also enjoyed it and wanted to keep reading. Even the title of the first chapter "Paradise Pickles & Preserves" - I was intrigued by that and wanted to know what that meant. The use of language is probably the thing that stayed with me most
after reading this book. A difficulty that I will admit that I had in reading this book, though, was dealing with the use of Indian words. I just had no clue what they meant unless we were explicitly told. Also the labels people went by took a while for me to sort out. So that was a bit of a stumbling block for me, particularly early on.

I was reminded of many of the themes in Beloved when I read this book. There is the repeated reference to "the laws that lay down who should be loved and how. And how much." (p.42) There are a lot of people loving people more than they should, or in different ways than they should, in this book. The most obvious example, I guess, is Ammu's and Velutha's love for each other, as well as the twins' love for him. This violated social laws.

But the way that Chacko loved his ex-wife and daughter, and the way that the rest of the family loved Sophie Mol seemed sort of extreme and strange to me. I had a hard time understanding why Sophie was so loved and fawned over. I wasn't sure if it was really as extreme as it was described in the book, or if it was written that way because we were reading about it through the eyes of Rahel when she was a child and she felt left out by the whole situation.

Baby Kochamma's lingering love of that priest was also excessive and I think might have been the root cause of their problems. I got the impression that because her love was never returned and she ended up back at home she had to see the path she took of being forever faithful to her first love as morally superior to Ammu's path of getting divorced. And so she seemed to want to make sure that Ammu and her children didn't have any love since they had forfeited it by leaving Ammu's husband. So, she showed them exactly what they were missing by pouring her love out on Sophie Mol and the wife instead. She was also possessive of Chacko's love in a really creepy way, I thought.

Then, of course, the love between Rahel and Estha was interesting also, though that didn't seem to be excessive to me. They had a strange connection because of being "two egg twins", but it didn't seem like their love for each other hurt them. Ultimately, it seemed to protect them and help them. And while their love for Ammu did finally compel them to betray Velutha, it didn't seem an excessive or wrong type of love. It was the choice you would expect children would make.

But, to get back to my comment about how this reminded me of Beloved, this concern about how much you can love people was sort of summed up at the end when Ammu and Velutha's relationship was described and it says that they limited their relationship to "Small Things" and the near future since they couldn't be sure of anything more than that. I wonder if the glimpses we saw of Rahel and Estha in the present, particularly Rahel's marriage, can be read as the two of them needing to get past that type of brief love that they saw their mom was limited to and love people in a bigger way and let things into their lives.


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