In 1996 I discovered a jewel of a novel by Arundhati Roy entitled The God of Small Things. It was inspired by her childhood in India and unflinchingly reveals the tragic consequences of forbidden love between those of different castes. After all of these years, Roy has finally published a second novel, and early buzz indicates it may be another literary masterpiece.
It is difficult to criticize Arundhati Roy for the long delay. She has continued to write non-fiction and to be an activist in India and this work consumed her. A passionate human rights advocate, she has engendered wide response – from being charged with sedition to receiving international peace awards.
In 2017 she has published The Ministry of Utmost Happiness — again, a book about India, love and heartbreak. More on the new book later – but for now here’s my review of The God of Small Things a few years ago:
When I read Arundhati Roy’s only novel, The God of Small Things, I felt an abiding sadness and a great respect for the author, hoping that she would publish many more great works. . . .
The protagonists are Indian twins Estha and Rahel, tender young things surrounded by adults both good and evil. We know early on that there is going to be unspeakable tragedy but the author tells the story in a swirling spiral, moving back and forth between periods of time before and after the fateful year, in and out of an array of emotions, the consciousness of various characters.
“Things can change in day” we are reminded again and again, and yet we could not possibly foresee the enormity of the events to come or the echoes that followed.
The “small things” of the title refer to lesser people in caste and age and power, whose God must be a lesser deity because they have no protection from cruelties. Roy introduces us to the people of her world in India but the story could be set anywhere that prejudice remains alive.
The children are at the heart of the story but it is not Estha or Rahel who die. Arundhati Roy says eloquently, for them it is “Just the End of Living.”
— Jonnie Martin