The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy

Another book club selection, although I'll probably miss the actual meeting for this one, too.
Set in India in 1969 (though the story jumps back in forth in time a bit), The God of Small Things tells the story of Rahel and Esta, twins who suffer a terrible tragedy one winter. The book hints at the Terror, approaching it from both before and after the event itself, drawing the circle tighter each time, as if the entire book is a premonition of this one small space in time.

Roy's writing is lyrical, exhibiting a love for the English language that only a multilingual could have. Esta and Rahel read backwards, think in Capital Letters, and merge words indiscriminately ("Orangedrink Lemondrink"). Phrases and images repeat themselves—if you don't pay attention, you'll forget where you first came across a detail and why it's significant. It's a book that yearns to be read more than once.

The story itself is tragic. You know it will be, and that knowledge colors an joy and humor that appears. You read with a sense of dread, and yet there is beauty in it. A significant quote:

It didn't matter that the story had begun, because ... 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 trick 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 the way that although you know that one day you will 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.
That is their mystery and their magic.
By this criteria, I'm not sure if Roy's own story qualifies as a Great Story. I suppose there isn't a trick ending (although I have enjoyed many books that do have them); but I don't think I entirely foresaw what was going to happen, either. Yes, I was able to piece together before the ending "who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn't." But I still didn't know what that event in the center of the spiral was, and I had to read to the end to find out.

Fed to jonathan's brain | April 03, 2004