“It didn’t matter that the story had begun, because Kathkali discovered long ago that the secret of Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. 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. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.”– Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
Timing is everything regarding books, and I have to say that the timing for this book was excellent as it came to me amid my own reflections of the past, my upbringing, and personal history. This was one of the books I read at the right time and when you do read books at the right time they often hold more meaning for you. This is one of the books that had me hooked from the start. Arundhati Roy is a brilliant storyteller and I fell in love with the structure, the content of this book, the humour, the cultural reflections. This book was a reminder to me of how when I first started looking for diversity in literature, Indian literature was one of the first genres I sought and felt comfortable in despite the fact that it’s not my culture. I knew I could relate to the depictions of life in the tropics, life in a former British colony with Britishness being seen as central and something to strive towards as well like I’d previously experienced was very much on my mind while reading this.
I found this to be a very compelling, beautiful, sad book, with rich imagery. The historical background was compelling. I had little knowledge of the Kerala area which was the backdrop to twins Rahel and Estha’s stories but Roy managed to make the story very compelling with her discussion of Indian social issues and the history of colonialism. And it was not difficult to remember how history shapes us.
“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.”
I liked the non-linear storytelling and I am finding that that’s true to life in many ways. Remembrances often aren’t linear, and with each chapter more of the mystery is revealed and I find that to be an interesting metaphor in our own lives.
There was so much profoundness in this book, and short sentences that, despite their length, had me thinking in all sorts of directions, for example, “Toy Histories for rich tourists to play in” to depict history and rich cultural heritage being lost, and which reminds me of false histories.
The wordplay, although it did get admittedly a bit repetitive, was also interesting, and I loved so much of the imagery, especially that of the moth:
“The moth on Rahel’s heart spread its velvet wings, and the chill crept into her bones.”
Overall, an excellent and tragic book with unforgettable characters. Definitely worth the read.
“Both she and he knew that there are things that can be forgotten. And things that cannot–that sit on dusty shelves like stuffed birds with baleful, sideways-staring eyes.”