Thursday, August 13, 2009

The God of Small Things

Ten of us met Tuesday to talk about this book and eight of us went to lunch afterward, where we talked some more, and sometimes about books. No surprise there.

Kathy had a doctor's appointment and wasn't able to be with us. I hope you'll share your thoughts with us in the comment section, Kathy. We were sad to say farewell to Dawn for the school year, but she wants to continue reading with us and will share her thoughts in the comment section as well.

This was the first time of all the books that we've read where I came to book group disliking the book and leaving it, actually liking it. We were pretty much in agreement that we didn't like it, wouldn't read it again nor would we have finished it, were it not for book group. Leslie asked me to be sure and point that she did like it - Leslie liked it.

I ended up having to read it in a sitting because the time jumps made the story hard for me to follow. Dawn said that the time jumps were effective in producing a fractured and disjointed effect, much the same as the characters were experiencing. And Madelon reminded us that the actual story itself took place in one week, from the time to Sophie Mol arrived to the time she drowned, and Velutha was blamed. We ached for the pathetic unloved live of Estha and were stunned at the evil genius of Baby's manipulations - a nun gone over to the dark side, one would surmise.

We all liked Velutha and felt he was the only sympathetic character. He reminded me of Robbie in Ian McEwan's Atonement. Carolyn pointed out that, no matter how much Robbie achieved, he was still always the gardener. In all of Velutha's creative skills and prowess at running their company, he was still an Untouchable.

The book ended without offering hope and certainly was a jarring conclusion after reading 300 pages of unhappiness. Ms. Roy is an activist in India and we thought that her goal in writing this novel was to unveil to the Western world the unhappiness in India and the helpless hopelessness that so many of the country's people experience, from the time they're born, to the time they die. It did seem that the parallel sex scenes at the conclusion were to show us that as abhorrant as incest is to the Western world, inter-caste sex is even more so in India.

In an interview, Roy said, "I don't see a great different between The God of Small Things and my works of nonfition." That is pretty much the conclusion that we came to by the end of the discussion.

Our September book is Inner Circle by T.C. Boyle - a much different book than this one. We will be selecting the books for next year by October. I will send a list of books that we have talked about in the next couple of weeks for you to look over and add your suggestions. Be thinking of things you'd like our group to read together.