THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS by Arundhati Roy

THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A brilliantly constructed first novel that untangles an intricate web of sexual and caste conflict in a vivid style reminiscent of Salman Rushdie's early work. The major characters are Estha and Rahel, the fraternal twin son and daughter of a wealthy family living in the province of Kerala. The family's prosperity is derived from a pickle factory and rubber estate, and their prideful Anglophilia essentially estranges them from their country's drift toward Communism and their ``inferiors' '' hunger for independence and equality. The events of a crucial December day in 1969--including an accidental death that may have been no accident and the violent consequences that afflict an illicit couple who have broken ``the Love Law''-- are the moral and narrative center around which the episodes of the novel repeatedly circle. Shifting backward and forward in time with effortless grace, Roy fashions a compelling nexus of personalities that influence the twins' ``eerie stealth'' and furtive interdependence. These include their beautiful and mysteriously remote mother Ammu; her battling ``Mammachi'' (who runs the pickle factory) and ``Pappachi'' (an insufficiently renowned entomologist); their Oxford-educated Marxist Uncle Chacko and their wily ``grandaunt'' Baby Kochamma; and the volatile laborite ``Untouchable'' Velutha, whose relationship with the twins' family will prove his undoing. Roy conveys their explosive commingling in a vigorous prose dominated by odd syntactical and verbal combinations and coinages (a bad dream experience during midday nap-time is an ``aftermare'') reminiscent of Gerard Manly Hopkins's ``sprung rhythm,'' incantatory repetitions, striking metaphors (Velutha is seen ``standing in the shade of the rubber trees with coins of sunshine dancing on his body'') and sensuous descriptive passages (``The sky was orange, and the coconut trees were sea anemones waving their tentacles, hoping to trap and eat an unsuspecting cloud''). In part a perfectly paced mystery story, in part an Indian Wuthering Heights: a gorgeous and seductive fever dream of a novel, and a truly spectacular debut. (First serial to Granta)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-679-45731-3
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1997




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