My Cultures and Canons class has been one of my favorite literature classes so far in college, partially because its purpose is to stray away from the typical Eurocentric literary canon (which includes Shakespeare, Dickens, authors we’ve all read before) and focus on mostly postcolonial novels. I just finished reading The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy for this class, and it was one of the most unique, captivating, and emotional books I’ve read in a long time.
The story is complex, mostly because the book’s events do not unfold chronologically. Within the first few chapters, readers know the outcome of the novel without knowing how exactly these situations arise. We’re introduced to Rahel and Estha, twins, at the age of 31 in 1993, but know they have been separated (and Estha has been silent) since 1969, when the main events of the novel occur.
The novel is beautifully crafted linguistically and allows readers to see the world mainly through the eyes of a child, whose innocence casts a heartbreaking shadow over the tragedies that unfold. My professor also mentioned that this novel could be categorized as a piece of “ecocriticism,” meaning it focuses widely on the environment’s role in the storyline and, specifically in The God of Small Things, India’s environment and its role in a post-British Imperialist setting. The story that unravels in the village of Ayemenem is one of loss and despair, and there are definitely some parts that are difficult, emotionally, to read. Still, I highly recommend this novel. It’s the first book I’ve read for a college class that has actually brought me to tears and, if you don’t mind taking a ride on an emotional roller coaster, I suggest you pick up The God of Small Things today.