guest review: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, from Sarah Appleton

A new guest reviewer joins us today! Thanks, Sarah.

god of small things

In The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy tells the searing yet lyrical story of a family’s course forever altered by the choices its family members make. Deftly capturing the political and social climate of late 1960s India, from the subtle shift in the caste system to the rising tide of Communism, Roy explores the lives of factory owner Chako, his divorcée sister Ammu, Ammu’s young twins Estha and Rahel, and the network of family members that surround them.

The story ostensibly revolves around the visit and subsequent drowning of Sophie Mol, the beloved—to a nearly mythic extent—nine year old daughter of Chako who lives with his ex-wife in England. English and light-skinned, her visit underscores the value of one’s skin color and the Anglophilia that permeates Indian culture. While Roy reveals Sophie Mol’s death immediately, the catastrophic context surrounding the drowning comes in bits and pieces as well as in and out of time, beginning in the present when Rahel returns to the ancestral home and reunites with her brother for the first time in over a decade after they were separated as children following that fateful drowning.

Roy captures the landscape and fraught inner workings of her characters in colorful language laden with similes and metaphors. While beautifully rendered, the tragic tale contains graphic details that may be difficult for some. Nevertheless, Roy powerfully conveys the captivating account of a family rocked by patriarchal culture, the caste system, untimely deaths, and forbidden love.

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