I think that it is really important that we read books from outside our cultural tradition. In fact it makes me very happy that there are a number of books from non-European/American authors on the BBC’s top 100. Sure the majority of them are classics by ‘dead white European men’ but then we have The God of Small Things written by an Indian women! So I was incredibly excited to start this book.
It is a fascinating and frustrating story because you don’t progress through the story in chronological order. You know from the outset that something terrible is going to happen and so you wait longing to find out what it is. The story centres around the fraternal twins Esthappen and Rahel and their broken home. When their uncle’s ex’wife brings his English daughter to visit, the world they have managed to forge for themselves suddenly disappears.
As a reader you see the effects of this unknown event before you understand it and it really opened my eyes as to the ways that people’s lives are shaped. You can never truly know everybody’s story, why they behave the way they do and what they have been through it their life time. It is hard to understand a person when you only know fragments of their story. And this story for me is about understanding people. We see as a reader how the lack of understanding people’s actions damages the lives of the characters and we see it through the innocent eyes of the twins.
This book also taught me a lot about the Indian cast system, something I previously knew nothing of. Again the theme comes back to the lack of understanding. People who are different aren’t inherently bad or evil and the twins see this and they struggle to comprehend the prejudice of their elders. For me there was also an interesting question raised in that are people who are raised to be racist inherently evil or are they products of the system? To discuss further would give away the ending, which is beautifully written, so I shall just leave you with that question.
Which leads me onto the language of this book. It is what I call a ‘style over substance’ book where the art of the novel is more important than the plot. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and it is most certainly not in The God of Small Things. It is so beautifully written it builds the Indian jungle around you. I could feel the humidity whilst reading.
It’s a social commentary told in a way that excludes no one. Everybody is equally guilty which I like because it includes the reader in a way I can’t explain. It makes you think; you cannot remain impassive. For that reason I would call it an excellent book and I am incredible glad I read it. However, this isn’t the kind of book I enjoy which has decreased its rating but doesn’t discredit it as a work of literature, after all it won the Man Booker prize.
Would recommend to: open your mind.