I read this book about two and a half years ago for the first time and I wouldn’t have bought it if it weren’t for this outrageously appealing look of it having been hastily thrown on the dusty floor of an old book store selling second hand books, waiting there patiently and a little angrily to be picked up, put on one of the shelves or on top of one of the piles on the floor at least. I had been looking for some other book that I don’t recall the name of any more.
This is the only work of Arundhati Roy that I have read so far and the score above should tell you that I absolutely loved it. It’s perfect for someone like me; to whom any spoiler is not spoiler enough. She tells us the ending of the book in chapter 1 and I think that’s admirable and really really brave of her but of course she is a great writer and would not, for the love of her life, ruin the mystery or to say “the confusion lay in a deeper, more secret place” .The lack of mysteriousness in the tone of the book makes it so much more intriguing. Roy would just nonchalantly mention things as if we are already supposed to know the whole story. She goes ‘oh yeah so it happens’ and we can’t help but think “no shit but HOW”.
I like how she questions the vulgarity of the love laws that exist(ed) in India where the color of your skin and your profession and your father’s profession and your great great grandfather’s profession decide(d) your worth as a
human subject in a capitalist society but most importantly, it decided who you can love and how much. It’s the same with the whole world, to be honest. It’s really something that needs to be talked about more. A lot of our cultural norms are severely racist and misogynistic.
Ammu. When I first read it, I thought Ammu could have avoided all the despair that took over the lives of Rahel and Estha by, well, by not falling in love with someone she wasn’t supposed to look at, let alone be with. Then I realized, that’s the whole point of it, isn’t it? One can’t decide a human being’s value based on the color of their skin and the surname of their ancestors. It’s kind of stupid but after having been disappointed by history many many times, it’s not hard to imagine humans doing stupid stuff anymore.
Human 1 : oh look at that! It’s so stupid!
Human 2: yeah ikr. let’s do the same.
Human 1: eh.. okay.
That a woman that they had already damned, now had little to lose, and could therefore be dangerous.
I suppose a woman who has nothing to lose would be kind of dangerous. Just the thought of a woman who has already faced every painful consequence of every bad decision is so wild, in a way. I guess it’s the same for every other gender. Humans are shackled to the ground because of their loved ones and the inanimate and the abstract things that they hold dear. I wonder if anyone ever runs out of things to lose.
Ammu was disgraced and disowned and lost Velutha to the hate laws but she still had her twins. Her twins, to whom she was both father and mother and whom she loved double.
Despite having been anchored to the world by her children, after Velutha, she was but an Ammu shaped hole in the universe. I wouldn’t call that dangerous. Haunting and heavy on the conscience but not in the least, threatening and scary.
The brown household and it’s great many condemnable traits have been portrayed really well. Mammachi’s weird obsession with her son and her hatred towards his love interests, Pappachis jealous-of-his-wife antics, baby kochamma’s gaslighting parasitic behavior, a divorcee being treated like scum, the american cousin being all the hype and the apple of everyone’s eyes even though she would sooner call them a bunch of idiots than family.
I have no comments about Rahel and Estha’s relationship to be honest except that they seem to me to have been portrayed like soulmates. Brother and sister, who always said “we” and never “I”. I mean soulmates aren’t always some stereotypical heterosexual non-platonic couple, right? Well, I might be wrong but I’m pretty sure I’m not.
This novel might be called depressing and too sad in some circles but it’s just common everyday stories of every other house. Stealthy slavery. In many households (especially in joint family systems) still, there is a kind of an absurd power struggle amongst the absurd number of people who think they are in charge of everyone else’s life and more importantly, finances. Hiding behinds the many excuses of the family’s honor and shameless emotional blackmailing, little mischievous villains ruin more than they would ever think themselves capable of ruining.
“And the air was full of Thoughts and Things to Say. But at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. Big Things lurk unsaid inside.”
This master piece won the booker prize in 1997. This book is so important and filled with an emotion so raw and genuine that one can’t help but feel both dumbstruck and aggrieved. I love how the story is structured. It is as if Roy blended her skills as an Architect and as a writer to create a very unique way of story telling.