The God of Small Things - what comes to my mind when I read those words? A thousand images - two children rowing a wooden boat on the floor, a girl curled in her seat in a movie theatre, a mother dusting wooden shavings out of her daughter's hair, a man walking in the rain, a woman hemming a ribbon.
"Memory was that woman on the train. Insane in the way she sifted through dark things in a closet and emerged with the most unlikely ones - a fleeting look, a feeling. The smell of smoke. A windscreen wiper. A mother's marble eyes."
The God of Small Things is a story about two twins, Estha and Rahel, who live with their mother and her family in a small town in the Indian state of Kerala, and how a turn of events transforms their lives.
The characterization was wonderful. While the characters' feelings of grief, anger and regret at the end were highlighted, Arundhati Roy did a beautiful job of carefully crafting those characters with subtle details so that their behaviour was in sync with what we knew about them. Take, for example, Chacko and his relationship with his niece Rahel. On the journey to Cochin, Chacko said that Ammu and her children were millstones around his neck. However, later that day, Chacko seems to be making up for his behaviour by being extra nice to Rahel. This formed the background for Chacko's behaviour towards Rahel after Sophie Mol's death. He was angry at Rahel becuase he believed that, at some level, Estha and Rahel were responsible for his daughter's death. However, he still agreed to let Rahel live with him, and though she wasn't showered with the utmost care, he still loved her, as evident at the time of Ammu's death. And Rahel loved him as well. Her complex relationship with Chacko was brought to light by her recurrent nightmare where Chacko broke all the bones of Ammu's body. She compared Chacko to a pianist and Ammu to a piano. And though she was terrified by this dream, she acknowledged that she loved both. The piano and the pianist.
The writing is amazing, and the use of similies throughout the book is simply beautiful.
"History was wrong-footed, caught off guard. Sloughed off like an old snakeskin. Its marks, its scars, its wounds from old wars and the walking backwards days all fell away. In its abscence it left an aura, a palpable shimmering that was as plain as water in a river or the sun in the sky. As plain to feel the heat on a hot day, or the tug of a fish on a taut line."
This lyrical, beautiful and awe-inspiring book also challenges you to rethink your notions of right and wrong.
"They all tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved and how. And how much."
What do I remember about reading The God of Small Things? I remember random images that flash before my mind with the clarity of a crystal. I remember losing sense of time. I remember reading sentences, paragraphs and even chapters over again. I remember reading phrases which perfectly connect things to thoughts and objects to emotions. I remember wanting to know how the book began and ending up reading it cover to cover.
I've never suffered from withdrawal after finishing the book. I know that I will never look at the book with fresh eyes again, and somehow that doesn't bother me. I don't know why it is, but perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the emotions this book gives rise to aren't ones that fade away after a while - like laughter which ends after the joke gets too old. I don't know the answer, but perhaps this quote from the book about Great Stories can explain.
"You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t."