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amner 1st Oct 2003 13:14

Book 4: THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS - Arundhati Roy - discussion
I'm finding this hard work ... I'll be with you all in a couple of days

Colyngbourne 1st Oct 2003 13:21

Yes, bloody hard going. I’m glad I’ve read it, but what was all the fuss about?

The over-lush density of description, a lot of which sits uneasily and is completely frou-frou on what is already a frou-frou story told in an unhelpfully convoluted way. It was difficult to steer a way through this book, between the Naxalites and the Communism, the Indian Orthodox Xianity and the caste system. We were distracted from the plot and the impact by repeated wearisome detours into the history of the characters (a whole chapter on Chacko’s ex-wife’s in the last ninety pages of the book) and such a flattened ending that I wished I’d finished the book a few pages earlier.

I enjoyed the story when we were on the narrative of the twins but deviations into Ammu (whom I didn’t really appreciate as a rounded character) and Baby Kochamma were simply annoying and detracted from where I had presumed the heart of the story lay, with the twins. Good grief, how it meandered and spent time enjoying itself describing foliage and tropical forest in over-indulgent detail. I disliked the forced ‘child-isms’ – Bar Nowl, Lay Ter, A Wake, A Live, A Lert – let alone that ‘Dum Dum’ business and the Locusts-Stand-I-whatsit thingy. The long, winding descriptions followed by. Short terse adjectives. Sentences without verbs. Okay for some time. But an irritant over 300 pages. Together with the Painfully Dragged-Out Capitalisation of Significant Words. Was I interested at all in the metaphor (if that’s what it was) of Pappachi’s moth? Indeed no.

Was the story believable? Well, it was signposted a mile off and never lived up to the horror implied (though Velutha’s death was quite gruesome). I never was enthralled by the Comrade Pillai bits, or the Kathakali dances - particularly that weird few pages about Karna and Kunti, which I know was significant to the events between Velutha and Ammu etc. but was brain-yawning all the same.

Oh, and all that repeated sentences thing – her fountain in a Love-in-Tokyo, two-egg twins, a viable die-able age, a ‘something-shaped hole in the universe’, Estha with his puff hair….it made me want to throw the book across the room, and that’s something I have never done (even with Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders).

I am amazed that Roy won the Booker for this but these were the other contenders -

The Essence of the Thing – Madeleine St. John
Grace Notes – Bernard McLaverty
The Underground Man – Mick Jackson
Quarantine – Jim Crace
Europa – Tim Parks

Of these I have only read the Jim Crace but would have voted for that above this.

pandop 1st Oct 2003 16:44

Only managed to get hold of the book on moday (had to wait for it to be returned) - will be with you asap

joy 5th Oct 2003 11:29

I finished this several weeks ago so I have already forgotten most of the detail. It did draw me to read on to the end but there were a lot of irritations along the way in the convoluted jumping about and the language. Oh, the language - I kept mumbling under my breath "stop being pretentious and get on with it" but then without all that I guess the story would have been very thin.
Does anyone else tend to avoid anything nominated for the Booker Prize in the belief that they will be just like this - all show and no substance?

Colyngbourne 5th Oct 2003 15:34

I have to say that I forget very quickly what was a Booker book and what wasn't but I know I really enjoyed Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin which won a couple of years ago, and I'm tempted to read Oryx and Crake on the strength of that. I don't generally read the list or purposefully avoid it - the one this year that resembles the Columbine massacre story (can't remember the title) also tempts me, but there is not a bit of Brick Lane's blurb/publicity that would make me go near that yet.

Sometimes I think there's too much overweening effort to make a book seem 'worthy' of being on the list. This one definitely over-egged the pudding until it was nothing but egg.

pandop 6th Oct 2003 14:23

well I am only just up to chapter 8, and I must admit I am struggling :?

I will do my best to finish it though, as I dont like giving up on books, and I never finsihed TMWWT


amner 13th Oct 2003 10:09

Time to cast me into the pit and shower my twitching body with coarse lime.

I have given up. The God of Small Things will be, with no little relief, excised from my possession today and dropped unceremoniously back into the library drop-bin where it belongs. I couldn't finish it, people, and all the while it sits next to me it acts like an anti-book, draining the energy from me, urging me not to read it, not to read anything.

Bring on Will Self.

Colyngbourne 13th Oct 2003 13:08

*applauds wildly*
Following last Friday night's viewing, I think I qualify with Self as a 'grumpy old man' - this book goes into my Top 10 worst ever.

pandop 13th Oct 2003 13:15

Well I am still struggling along, and I have worked out what the problem is (other than that Roy is trying too hard to be clever) I havent engaged with any of the characters - I really couldnt care less what happens to them, so there is no incentive to keep reading.

I will though as I am determined not to let it beat me


Colyngbourne 13th Oct 2003 13:30

Thinking back (though it pains me :oops: ) I just about engaged with the boy twin (was his name Estha?) but barely so and suffocating under the density of every sentence...

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