I finished The God of Small Things yesterday, and decided to sleep on it before I tried to write a review, hoping that might make it clear what I wanted to say.
And I still don't know. I don't know what I thought about this book. I didn't love it - it's not one I'll rush out and tell all my friends about. Yet it was full of felicitous turns of phrase that I enjoyed very much.
The God Of Small Things is about a family in India in the mid-twentieth century (if my quick wikipedia search about Indian communism leads me to guess the right time period), their wounds, the things they say and don't say, the ways they conform to expectations and defy them, and the consequences, both direct and sudden and unexpected.
The story is very much a spiral around a tragedy, circling in tighter and tighter until the complete picture is revealed, which in the early book is hinted at, but not how the different elements interconnect.
And through the spiral cuts the straight line of malice from one character who acts with such petty viciousness that it turns a tragedy into a monstrosity.
This novel is full of damaged characters, all of whom were touched by at least one of the two major events, none of whom has fully come to terms with their actions or inactions. Anything Can Happen To Anyone, and does.
And yet, this is a small story, told by the God of Small Things, with the larger societal and political tragedies populating the background. In a way, the small things that happen in the book happen because of the Large Things, yet they are important to the characters because of their immediate impact, not their larger significance. And none of them can move past the Small Things. And so, in a way, they absent themselves from the Big Things, in ways that remove them from active participation in the world. (Estha's silence, Rahel's remoteness, Baby Kochamma's TV, Chacko's emigration, Ammu's eventual fate.)
This is a difficult book. It isn't light. But it does reward thought. And I think I liked it more than I realized.