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Publisher's Summary

Man Booker Prize Winner, 1997

Likened to the works of Faulkner and Dickens when it was first published 20 years ago, this extraordinarily accomplished debut novel is a brilliantly plotted story of forbidden love and piercing political drama, centered on the tragic decline of an Indian family in the state of Kerala, on the southernmost tip of India. 

Armed only with the invincible innocence of children, the twins Rahel and Esthappen fashion a childhood for themselves in the shade of the wreck that is their family - their lonely, lovely mother Ammu (who loves by night the man her children love by day), their blind grandmother Mammachi (who plays Handel on her violin), their beloved uncle Chacko (Rhodes scholar, pickle baron, radical Marxist, bottom-pincher), their enemy Baby Kochamma (ex-nun and incumbent grandaunt), and the ghost of an imperial entomologist's moth (with unusually dense dorsal tufts). 

When their English cousin and her mother arrive on a Christmas visit, the twins learn that things can change in a day. That lives can twist into new, ugly shapes, even cease forever. The brilliantly plotted story uncoils with an agonizing sense of foreboding and inevitability. Yet nothing prepares you for what lies at the heart of it. 

©1997 Arundhati Roy (P)2017 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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What listeners say about The God of Small Things

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Worthy Booker winner!

This is a marvelously written satire of post-independent Indian culture from a very adapt author. It captures religion, sex, bigotry, misogyny, abuse, incest and numerous other human experiences and vices. Miss Roy uses a flashback story style interwoven with remarkable prose to illuminate a tragedy that will taint two innocent children for their entire lives. Some of the chapters are heart wrenching while others infuriate or even amuse.

The first chapter if read/heard carefully explains the entire plot of the book. Get through the chapter as it can be quite complex with multitudes of names and backgrounds. The story begins at the end and then slowly fills in the cause. This does not take away from the enjoyment of the narrative but only enhances its appeal. The book is both a mystery and a damning of injustice in Indian society. This is not a happy story.

Without a doubt, this is one of the better Booker winners. Don’t miss it.

56 people found this helpful

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Absolutely Brilliant

What made the experience of listening to The God of Small Things the most enjoyable?

The narrator is an excellent match for the material.
She navigates the English/Malayalam/child language with fluidity.

The writing itself is tremendously imaginative; it is not just a story but an
immersive story/creative/linguistic experience.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

in the talkies and the ending

Any additional comments?

I understand why this book is considered a modern classic.
Rereading it enhances my "not a word out of place" appreciation.

47 people found this helpful

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Couldn't finish

I found the story very hard to follow. The characters were a bit confusing and the timeline was extremely confusing. I couldn't tell where the characters were in their life story. I gave up. It might have been easier had I read the book rather than listen to it so I could go back for references

55 people found this helpful

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Faulkner in Hindi

I had a very difficult time following the action. Keeping track of characters was one challenge. The author’s frequent use of a language other than English was another. The non-linearity of the story was a third bit of trouble. The writing itself was fine (and maybe I’m just a Philistine), but I couldn’t wait to get this over with.

13 people found this helpful

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Innocence lost

Beautifully written story of innocence lost, portrayed so vividly that I could almost hear, smell and taste the scenes.

13 people found this helpful

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So flowery

I was unable to get through to the end. The exaggerated details were painful to hear, and certain themes and phrases were such an overwhelming overtone that the storyline, which is largely out of chronological order to begin with, was detracted from. Perhaps the hard copy would be easier for some readers.

25 people found this helpful

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Myth and Performance does not expunge colonialism

I want to love this book, but it deprives me, as a reader, of what I wanted most from the author. Beautiful metaphors and words don't assuage the deep grief of cultural repression. Arundhati Roy bends time, mythology and nature like metal in the hands of a jeweler. She makes filigree from social injustice and tragedy with perfect beads of infinite details. Layers upon layers of intimate history melt in a strange crucible, a cauldron, of repressed desires from multiple generations.

I walked away from the book feeling overwhelmed, almost cheated. After reading Joëlle Célérier-Vitasse's article, The Blurring of Frontiers in Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, in Études anglaises 2008/1 (Vol. 61), I am better equipped to appreciate Roy's masterful novel. I am not, however, any less grief stricken. Kathakali is a highly stylized dance drama performed by an all male company whose characters are dressed with colourful and intricate costumes and display codified and elaborate make-up. It is this mythological drama that underpins the story of fraternal twins Esta & Rahel, their mother Ammu, her lover Velutha, and their extended family network.
https://www.cairn.info/revue-etudes-anglaises-2008-1-page-68.htm#

The drama begins with the death of a cherished, English-Indian cousin, Sophie Mol. Most of the book centers around the grief over a child, but it is a good man's needless & violent death that left me most sad. Interspersed with references to Shakespeare (The Tempest, Julius Cæsar, Macbeth, Anthony and Cleopatra), as well as the theatrical metaphor of Kathakali, The God of Small Things bridges impossible cultural gaps. This is the miracle of Roy's narrative filigree. Everything is made in translation of tragedy between two very different cultures. Unlike the crimson banana jam that Esta stirs, however, no nourishment comes from this melting pot.

I prefer the metaphor of intricate Indian jewelry to fusion cooking as a way of understanding Roy's work. She has crafted a beautiful tiara with the crown jewel characters of Esta, Rahel, Ammu and Velutha. The metal work that surrounds these gems are the snaking vines of family obligation, cultural & religious guilt, which are wound tighter by sociopolitical upheaval. The combs that keep this crown in place bite into the reader's consciousness, bending to the point of breaking what seem to be universal laws. Roy calls them The Love Laws, codes that decide who is loved, how they are loved and in what quantity.

Célérier-Vitasse's argues in her article that The God of Small Things, "reveals a new possibility of breaking in the realm of artistic creativity and freeing people from neocolonial domination." Reading Roy's book in 2020, (more than 20 years after it was written) I would like to think that we are all headed toward a "pursuit of some more positive and constructive globalization", but I'm not sure humanity is capable.

11 people found this helpful

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Stunning

The storytelling is prolific. Roy is able to shine a light on the subtle nuances of being a human and having a heart in a world that can have grey areas and be unfair. The narrator brings the entire story to life. Well done👏🏾 One of my new favorites.

7 people found this helpful

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audible performance makes a difference

story read in Anglo-indian rhythms really enhances the experience makes the author's ironic intent clearer.

7 people found this helpful

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Too confusing in audio format

I listen to audio books mainly in the car and on the plane. I bought this highly rated book during the 2for1 promotion. I wouldn’t call myself a light reader by a long shot, but I had a hard time following the narrative in audio. It jumped back and forth on the timeline so frequently I was never sure where or when I was. I think this book has promise and it has some excellent recommendations. Maybe I need the visual cues from the print version?

13 people found this helpful