Arundhati Roy has the ability to tell a riveting story, but one that has a dark undertone. I talk about The Ministry of Utmost Happiness here.
This story is not so complex and sprawling as The Ministry.. It is more contained, tighter. It is about twins, two-egg twins, Dizygotic. A male and a female. And their single parent mother, the mother’s brother, and the poisonous ex-nun aunt, sister of the grandmother of the twins. And of the beautiful irreplaceable untouchable caste man.
“They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved and how. And how much.” The mother loved an inappropriate man; the untouchable loved hopelessly a woman who could not be his; the twins loved each other; the ex-nun loved a priest; a pedophile loved all little boys; the mother’s brother loved a woman who found she couldn’t love him and so divorced him.
It was 1969 in India, the time of Marxism and the Communists. The family had a pickling business, and the village had communists and trade unionists. And touchables and untouchables. It moves back and forth from the childhood of the twins, to the present day, telling the story of their lives, and how many relations are not permitted.
The book is cleverly constructed, and the writing is almost poetic in many places. The weaving of the older story with the current story, the stories of the various characters intertwining — just masterful, so compelling you cannot stop reading.
The god of small things is also referred to as the god of loss in the book. It seems to refer to Velutha, the untouchable man.
This book was the winner of the Booker Prize in 1997. Yeah, I know. I just got around to reading it.
One funny quote for you, just because I liked it.
Comrade Pillai’s arms were crossed over his chest, and he clasped his own armpits possessively, as though someone has asked to borrow them and he had just refused.
The quality of the writing style, of the construction of the plot, so far exceeds the shopworn topic of forbidden love and prudery as to make the reader forget that those well-worn themes are the bones of the book.