Sunday, 22 December 2013

Book Review: The God of Small Things

The God of Small ThingsThe God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was prepared to love this book. I'm a big fan of Indian literature and had heard many good things about this title.
I found it to be a mixed bag. While the writing was lush and beautiful, many passages were overwritten. Arundhati Roy is one of those writers who can't resist using five similes when none would suffice. Sometimes they border on the ridiculous, such as when she describes a smell coming off the river and "hovering over the city like a hat." Since when do hats hover? Sometimes they just don't make any sense, such as when she says "shock swelled in her like phantom applause in an empty auditorium."
The story jumps back and forth in time, a useful narrative device that can increase the power of a story. It doesn't here. Roy also falls into the common trap of literary authors by having everyone talk like literary authors. Even the child characters, whose dialogue is usually wonderfully childlike and distinct, sometimes slip into speaking like some English graduate student at Oxford.
This is a shame, because there's some lovely writing here and a compelling narrative. If Roy had toned down on the literary trappings this book would have been far more effective. As it stands, reading The God of Small Things is like being served a beautiful slice of Black Forest cake. It looks exquisite, smells tempting, and then you take a bite and find the chef added twice the sugar the recipe called for.

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1 comment:

Sioux said...

Sean--I too was not head-over-heels over "The God of Small Things." I am also fond of stories about India (or China, or the Middle East) and loved "A Fine Balance" by Rohinton Mistry, but since it's been around forever, you've probably already read it.

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