"The Curse of the Love Laws: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy | Review" by Sheha Saha

The story exposes History’s cruel way of taking revenge at people who break the Love Laws.

“When you hurt people, they begin to love you less. That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.” ― Arundhati Roy

As an individual who has always had a craving to understand human behavior, Arundhati Roy's debut novel has helped me to quench my thirst for it in this lockdown. Winner of the 1997 Booker Prize, The God of Small Things is a book that upholds the dilemmas and vulnerabilities of the human mind as a child, as an adult, as a mother, and as a lover. Right from the early pages, the story will confound every sensitive and passionate reader with heart-rending mysteries and emotionally charged scenes that will make it difficult for one to even put the book down for a few seconds. It is a book as such that demands a second reading, considering the moments of brilliance contained within this novel: post-colonialism, conflicts between Christianity and native beliefs, communism versus the status quo, and the caste system.

Set in Kerala, India, during the late 1960s, the story is seen from the perspective of seven-year-old Rahel. She and her twin brother, Estha, live with their divorced mother, Ammu, who works in the family’s pickle factory despite being treated as burdens by her Oxford returned brother Chac

ko. The story takes a turn when Chacko’s ex-wife Margaret comes to visit Ayemenem from London with their daughter Sophie, whose untimely demise makes Estha and Rahel pay a heavy price. The story exposes History’s cruel way of taking revenge at people who break the Love Laws. While the main story is set in 1969, Roy shifts back and forth through flashbacks and flash-forwards, unraveling secrets of the characters’ unhappiness and the adults they become eventually. Roy captures the children's honest but opaque understanding of adults' complex emotional lives. Rahel highlights that "at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. The Big Things lurk unsaid inside."

While Estha and Rahel learned that life is not always about the big picture, it is the small things of the novel that make the story so poignant and human, and Roy’s writing style so intimate. The twins, however, felt that “It is curious how sometimes the memory of death lives on for so much longer than the memory of the life that it purloined. Over the years, as the memory of Sophie Mol ... slowly faded, the Loss of Sophie Mol grew robust and alive. It was always there. Like a fruit in season. Every season. As permanent as a government job.”

First-time novelist Arundhati Roy is wondrously gifted in the art of language. Her capacity for simile and metaphor seems boundless: “Rahel’s new teeth were waiting inside her gums, like words inside a pen.” Roy uses a fair bit of foreshadowing that propels the reader forward to the place and the time as she wills. The God of Small Things is a strange and complex work that reeks densely of intrigue and tragedy, washing your soul with melancholy as you cry even when the characters laugh. In the early chapters, the story might come off as a slight task to amateur readers, making them wonder what the genre of the story actually is- a magical reality where the characters see the dead or the writing to be just clever enough to manipulate the readers? Depending on your temperament, it can be intriguing or a little too perplexing but for a proficient reader, it is 340 pages of pure indulgence!

Roy peels away the layers of her mysteries with such delicate cunning that it is difficult to explain and a spoiler to quote. A novel of real ambition must invent a context that gives new meaning to words, and this one does very elegantly.

This is one of those novels that is published without a blurb but as everyone who writes about this novel seems to quote:

"They all broke the rules. They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tempered with the laws that lay down who should be loved and how. And how much."

Throughout the entirety of the book, Roy emphasizes the “small things” that occur between the characters, leading to the “Big Things” in life: innocence lost through the molestation of a boy, the gender double standard of Indian society, the divide between Touchables and Untouchables (a caste seen as vastly inferior) and love being distorted through familial difficulties.

The novel is Arundhati’s finest work till now and unarguably one of the most beautiful books of our times with sensuous prose, rich in breathtakingly beautiful images and keen insight into human nature.

Editor says: Suzzana Arundhati Roy sprang up to fame and permanent radar of readers when her debut novel won the prestigious Booker Prize in 1997. The brilliance of "The God of Small Things" lies in its infinite capacity to hold the grief of being wronged in such beautiful prose that it breaks your heart and you want to keep the broken pieces as souvenirs. The present review by Saha is a testimony of the same, she rightly warns you of the heartbreak and still cajoles you into reading the book because of the worth it carries.

About the author: Sheha Saha is an aspiring writer, spoken word poet, and artist. Bengali at heart, a bibliophile and coffeeholic by nature, she loves penning her musings through prose and poetry. Through her writing and art, she always seeks a platform to speak out on sensitive issues that are often overlooked, including mental health, healing, and femininity. Her work has also been published in various online literary sites and as part of anthologies. 

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