In Arundhati Roy’s novel, The God of Small Things, the happenings in the lives of the main characters make it possible for us to visualize a southern Indian small town,  and the way life takes its course through all its attractions and disappointments.

I very much admire the language, which often tastes like the right amount of chili sauce with your favorite food. It gives an additional tinge to the food without killing its real taste. At times, it pushes you to the top of a hill, encouraging you to look down for a surprise in the landscape.

Roy also adds the shortest possible sentences to give depth to what was said. These are like small waves, coming after the main thought, highlighting its intensity and valor: “A limp floorswab, and two rusty tin cans of nothing. They could have been Paradise Pickle products. Pineapple chunks in syrup. Or slices. Pineapple slices.”

Another technique of hers is to use the same meter in a series of sentences describing the same scene. They are like cold waves on a summer day. They keep coming until they touch your feet, and take away some of the harshness of the sun hovering over you on the beach: “In the lobby orangedrinks were waiting. The lemondrinks were waiting. The melting chocolates were waiting. The electric blue foam leather car-sofas were waiting. The Coming Soon! Posters were waiting.”

She often plays a game, with us by unfolding the story slowly to heighten our curiosity, and also with the language, depicting setting and its time in a crispy manner: “The Man wiped his marble counter with a dirt colored rag. And he waited. And waiting he wiped. And wiping he waited. And watched Estha sing.”

Her musical satire does not go unnoticed:

“Bon von Trapp had some questions of his own.

(a) Are they white children?

      No. (But Sophie Mol is.)

(b) Do they blow spit bubbles?

      Yes. (But Sophie Mol doesn’t.)

(c) Do they shiver their legs? Like clerks?

      Yes.  (But Sophie Mol doesn’t.)

(d) Have they either or both, ever held strangers’ soo-soos?

      N . . . Nyes (Sophie Mol hasn’t.)

      “Then I’m sorry,” Baron von Clapp-Trapp said. “It’s out of the question. I cannot love them. I cannot be their Baba. Oh no.”

      Baron von Clapp-Trapp couldn’t.”

And the music she has created in the feelings of her characters: “Estha sat and watched. His stomach heaved. He had a green-wavy, thick-watery, lumpy, seaweedy, floaty, bottomless-bottomful feeling.”

And her similes. Unique: “But Joe was dead now. Killed in a car crash. Dead as a doorknob. A Joe-shaped hole in the Universe.”

This is one of the novels in which you enjoy nuances of language more than the story. The story, though, has its own charm, and every turn makes you look forward to the next one.   

  

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