I’ve started reading again, because... time. And this debut novel by Arundhati Roy was one of the few I’ve finished so far. It’s no surprise when you’ve finished it to see why she won the 1997 Booker Prize for it. The writing in this book draws you in immediately with its sensuous prose and a keen insight into human nature, it also introduces you as a reader into the genre of magical, kaleidoscopic literature with its descriptive imagery and complex relationships.
Set in Kerala, India, during the late 1960s when Communism challenged the age-old caste system, the story begins with the funeral of young Sophie Mol, the cousin of the novel's protagonists, Rahel and her fraternal twin brother, Estha. In an almost tortuous, winding and suspenseful narrative, Roy reveals the family tensions that led to the twins' behavior on the fateful night that Sophie drowned. Beneath the drama of a family tragedy lies a background of local politics, social taboos and the tide of history, all of which come together in a slip of fate, after which a family is irreparably shattered.
The author, Arundhati Roy captures the children's candid observations but clouded understanding of adults' complex emotional lives. Rahel notices that "at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. The Big Things lurk unsaid inside." Tinged with a sad wisdom, the children's view is never oversimplified, and the adult characters reveal their frailties and in one case, a repulsively evil power but in subtle and yet at the same time complex ways.
One thing I did feel though that sometimes Roy would succumb to overwriting, forcing every minute detail to symbolise something bigger, and the pace of the story slows. But these lapses are few, and her powers blend magnificently in the book's second half.
Let me know what you think of it if you do read it!