Perhaps controversially, whilst book prizes carry a lot of prestige within the literary world, I don’t think they are always a marker of a good book, or at least one that I will be certain to enjoy.
When it comes to the 1997 Man Booker Prize winner, Arunhati Roy’s The God of Small Things however, my feelings are less certain…
To explain, it is perhaps worth pausing for a moment on the narrative. The God of Small Things is undoubtedly complex, following the childhood of twins Estha and Rahel, their mother Ammu’s difficult family situation, and the ‘love laws’ which determine “who should be loved, and how. And how much”. This is all set against the backdrop of communism, the caste-system and profound cultural tensions in Kerala, India.
Technically speaking, it is a great novel – well written, highly emotionally charged, brimming with description and interesting characters. But, and it’s a BIG but, there is something missing – I didn’t feel drawn in by the narrative, I wasn’t invested in the characters themselves or where life would take them. Even upon a second reading, despite the many tragedies of the novel and powerful subtext, I wasn’t gripped.
The dilemma is obvious – how do you categorise a book that has so much going for it, but doesn’t quite manage to grab your attention? That is incredibly difficult to answer, thankfully however this is just one opinion of many, and it is for you to make up your own mind.