Read #1: The God of Small Things

I finished my first Reading India book last night, Arundhati Roy’s first – and only – published novel, The God of Small Things.

It’s a book I had tried once before to read, and not gotten through the first twenty or so pages. This time, because of my challenge, I persisted. And for a long while I was glad I did. I enjoyed the lush prose, and the characterisations, and sometimes it was VERY funny. I marvelled at how someone so young (actually, she wasn’t that young, about 35 when it was published) could write a first novel like this one. I read variously that: she doesn’t edit her work, this book wasn’t edited, she never edited it. And at times I thought it should have been more worked but also, accepted it was part of the rambunctious, meandering style.

But I did get tired of the meandering. And I got a bit tired trying to work out the time jumps. Usually they were easily enough followed but sometimes it just seemed to spit out into a really weird place. The structure was pretty complex, and lots of point of view shifts; quite unsettling.

I finished it. I was disappointed with the ending. There is a death, of course, and I was disappointed with how that death came about. I felt I’d been led to believe one thing but really, it was a bit tricksy.

As I was coming to the end of my reading, I read somewhere that it was a poorer version of Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie.

‘That’s decided my next read,’ I thought to myself.

So after I finished the Roy book I picked up the Rushdie, and read the first 70 pages. It didn’t matter that it was after 2am last night. Very quickly, I was seeing points of similarity, echoes of Rushdie in the later-published book. Things to do with moles on faces, fatness, pickles and bodies of water. Ah, Arundhati Roy, you naughty thing. Why were you not more careful? I wonder if Salman had anything to say about it. If he’d been on twitter he would have not been able to resist a small shot across the bow, I’m sure.

8 thoughts on “Read #1: The God of Small Things

  1. I haven’t read either of these but oddly, my husband, who rarely reads for pleasure, has read both (he’s had a few trips to India and went on a reading India binge many years ago) – I’ll have to ask him if he recalls any similarities.

    1. That is kind of odd but I get the situational reading in that way. Perhaps it’s because I’m reading them back to back that I am noticing the similarities. I will make a list and blog about it, cause to my mind it’s super close, cannot be a coincidence unless she read his in early ’80s and didn’t write hers until mid ’90s, that’s like 15 years… Things can lodge in the subconscious for sure.

    1. The Rushdie is far less readable but that’s him, nothing to do with her book. Um. It’s not changing the reading of Midnight’s Children but making me, in retrospect, respect her effort less because it seemed so derivative to me. I thought maybe staying ‘in the world’ Roy had set up would make Rushdie’s book easier: not so. But it is making for an extended feeling of location. I suppose that will be my whole year, I will feel as if I’m visiting India for a long while. The other update on the Rushdie reading is that because it’s so dense and tangential and complex I can only read twenty pages or so at a time, then have to cheat with a re-read of Carey’s Illywhacker (allowed because it fits ‘writing research’) so at night I’m reading MC first, then when I can’t bear it any more, Illywhacker, for a salve.

  2. I recently read The God of Small Things and put a review on my blog too. Like you I have mixed feelings about it. It flirts with a fine line between being brilliantly inventive or horribly contrived. And it is so common to hear people say they never finished it and barely started it.

    1. I agree absolutely with you. The funny thing is I found it very readable, once I tried again a couple of weeks ago, but in the past had stalled early on. Compared to Midnight’s Children it was a breeze, but I’m enjoying MC more, it’s brilliant, he is brilliant. What a brain and it’s *that* which mostly impresses me. It’s so freaking literary. Love it.

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