Reading reflections in the Bookinglass

An expat with a love of fiction

God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

with 2 comments

I have moved to Berlin and have a 30 minute commute to work, the perfect opportunity to read! This is one of those I-really-must-read-at-some-point reads and I can’t believe I have actually gotten down to doing it particularly as I haven’t been feeling much like reading at all recently.

Set in Kerala, Southern India, the language is as rich and dense as hazelnut and honey cheesecake and I really feel like I have been there! On the downside, it’s like reading all my old English Lit. teacher’s prose extracts to Analyse (or shred to pieces) all put together in one enormous volume of Ahhhh that must MEAN something but I am not sure what!?

Goodness, the amount of extended metaphors in this book I don’t think even the keenest Lit. Crit. could count. My particular most pet-hated metaphor is a “fountain in a Love-in-Tokyo…” otherwise known as the little girl whose name escapes me right now but this image of her hair tied in a high ponytail with bobble plastic hair-tie (see picture) really sticks into my mind. There’s something about the way that it sounds that really makes no sense and yet is rather beautiful. It’s a very frustrating image for me…touristy, cheap and insignificant but lively and exotic and very very girly.

Another image that conjures up the same kind of sick touristy, unright feeling of the Love-in-Tokyo (How can Tokyo have anything to do with this part of India?). In the airport as the twins and their family await the much-anticipated arrival of their cousin, Sophie Mol from England. Rahel (aha, that’s the girl’s name!) notices statues described as “red mouthed roos with ruby smiles” that move “cemently across the airport floor”…how creepy is that? Statues of kangaroos with their pouches filled not with joeys but with disgusting stains from betel nut juice (spat by passersby) and cigarette stubs. Rubbish instead of offspring. And the fact that they are MOVING? It’s just as Rahel sees the dead girl cartwheel in her coffin, these inanimate objects should definitely not move, but because she (perhaps) imagines they do move, it creates a very unsettling  and foreboding atmosphere. The alliteration of  ‘r’ I think conveys how they might sound if they did move across the floor. Slow, inexorable, deadly and void of emotion.

Righto! That’s my comments for now. Still have to finish the book…although I am pretty certain that it is not a happy ending as the whole tone of the book so far is very dark and uncomfortable and icky (the weather and the people). Perhaps Roy is dealing with Untouchable subjects in many many ways into which I can barely begin to delve.

Believe it or not, I actually don’t tend to write things down…instead I store it up in my mind and think:

‘Surely that will do for now until I can have the chance to sit and post it here’…uh…big surprise, this doesn’t usually work, memory fails me. I play this game all the time, like thinking I won’t need a bookmark and spending 10 minutes or so finding the exact sentence I stopped on a particular page. So here goes one of the posts which I have mental post it note for: ‘Chapter 12’.

So what can the elusive Chapter 12 tell us? *flip flip flipping through book*

“It didn’t matter that the story had begun, because kathakali discovered long ago that the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and shocking endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In a way that although you know that one day you’ll die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.”

This section touches me by putting so simply the feeling of what it is to be human, what we love about stories. Why I love reading as a way to wrap myself in the comfort of suspending my disbelief. Not to have to worry of options, of change, of the unknown.

I don’t think this ‘knowing’ even has to be because you are rereading something again (I don’t reread books…why should I when there are so many other books to read?). Rather that feeling that you are familiar with the story, with the place and the people already and you can sense their destination before you or they reach it.

In short, someone usually dies in a book. Fact. It’s like authors just can’t escape it, and no Great Story could be complete without your favourite or most unexpected character kicking the bucket.Why is that?


Written by bookinglass

July 7, 2010 at 6:20 pm

2 Responses

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  1. With Love-in-Tokyo hair tie, Arundhuti Roy is alluding to a bollywood movie about two ‘forbidden lovers’, thus furthering the theme of the love-laws by paralleling the twincest and intimate relationships between Ammu and Velutha.

    The Love-in-Tokyo also interestingly has two balls on either side, representing how Rahel and Estha are linked even though they might be separated for most of their life as adolescents. And lastly, the cyclical nad vicious circle which Rahel and Estha are subjected to is emphasised.



    May 16, 2014 at 4:44 am

    • Thanks for your insights 🙂 It was certainly a very intricate book in terms of themes and literary devices.


      September 15, 2014 at 2:45 pm

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