Mini Reviews: Pairing Books with Movies 2

Monday, February 27, 2012

The God of Small Things 

by Arundhati Roy


I really wanted to like this one. In fact, when I started the book and it was incredibly slow going, I decided that no matter what, I was sticking with it to the end. At times it felt like I was trying to run on a beach, the faster I tried to read the more exhausting it was. The book is set in India and tells the story of a set of twins, one male, one female and their complicated family.

My problem with the book lies mainly with the structure. It jumps back and forth in the timeline with no real warning. First we learn about the twins as adults, then as kids, then about their mother’s life as a young woman, then about her relative’s childhood, etc. It’s hard to follow where you’re at in the tale and whose story is being told if you have to pick it up and put it down a lot. 

The names made it more difficult as well, though that’s not the author’s fault. I wasn’t sure whether some of the names, like Aleyooty Ammachi, Velutha and Estha, were masculine or feminine at first. I figured it out quickly, but it was one more element to juggle. 

The novel feels incredibly ambitious. It deals with India’s political climate, the caste system, cultural and ethical taboos, molestation, religion, family dynamics, incest, guilt. I feel like it might have been more powerful if the story was a bit more focused on a smaller number of issues. 

I will say that my favorite part of the book was the descriptive passages. The author has a beautiful way of phrasing things….

“Margaret Kochmma’s tiny ordered life relinquished itself to this truly baroque bedlam with the quiet gap of warm body entering a chilly sea.”

…but that beauty wasn’t enough to make it work for me. I’d love to hear someone’s opinion on this one that’s familiar with Indian culture. I wonder if some aspects would have worked better for me if I knew the culture better.

Pair with a viewing of Monsoon Wedding

Black and Blue 

by Anna Quindlen


Fran has been the victim of domestic abuse for years. She’s built a life around the lies she tells her family and friends when a new bruise appears. Her husband, a New York cop, intimidates and threatens her into feeling helpless. 

Finally, she’s had enough and decides to take her young son and leave. With a new identity and very little else, she starts a new life in Florida. But even a new home and friends doesn’t help her shake the constant feeling of fear she’s grown to live with. Every new stranger talking to her son is suspicious and each wrong number leaves her shaking. 

I don’t know why, but I always seem to lump this author into the same group as Jodi Picoult, Anne Tyler and Anita Shreve. I don’t read much from any of those authors, so I tend to confuse them. I think I enjoy Quindlen more than the rest, but I’ve only read a few things by her. 

This book made me feel so grateful for the men in my life. My husband, father, brother, etc. are all wonderful men and I have never ever had to live with the fear of being hit. I think it’s easy for people who have never been abused, like me, to wonder why the women stay or go back to the men. This book helped give me a better understanding of their point-of-view and how hopeless those situations can feel. Quindlen did a great job portraying this without painting Fran as only a victim. 

I won’t give anything away about the ending, except to say it really surprised me. I was expecting something much more predictable and instead I think it was much more realistic.

Pair with a viewing of Enough and Sleeping with the Enemy


Sandy Nawrot said...

Sleeping With the Enemy was pretty creepy. I haven't read anything by Quindlen but I just did upload Every Last One on audio so I will remedy that soon. I've heard she is an amazing writer, so I can't wait to discover her back list!

annieb said...

I haven't read any of Quindlen's fiction, but have read several of her nonfiction books and in fact am currently reading "Loud and Clear." It is a collection of columns written for the New York Times and Newsweek about a variety of subjects. I have also read "Imagined London" and "How Reading Changed My Life"--both excellent, quick reads. I really avoid books/movies about battered women because I volunteer at my local woimen's shelter and that is painful enough.

I recently read an ARC of a book called "behind the beautiful forevers" by Katharine Boo. It came out this month and is on the New York Times Bestseller nonfiction list. It is beautifully written narrative fiction about the people living in a Mumbai slum called Annawadi, where the author lived for four years before writing the book. I have never had much of an interest in India, but this book really moved me and I would recommend it to anyone, because it is so moving but accessible.

Teacher/Learner said...

Anna Quindlen and Anne Tyler are similar types of writers, agreed, though I think Tyler's characters are a bit quirkier. I loved One True Thing, if you're looking to try another Quindlen book.

annieb said...

I meant to write narrative non-fiction about behind the beautiful forevers. Sorry

Kristi said...

I read The God of Small Things a few years ago and while I was impressed by it, I couldn't put my finger on why I didn't love it. I think you nailed it when you said there were too many issues. By the end, I remember just feeling kind of tired. I remember being confused also as to the chronology of the story.

Jenners said...

I love your description of reading a book feeling like you are running on a beach and going slower and slower -- that spoke to me. It always amazes me how I can fly through a 800+ page book that I'm enjoying in now time and can struggle through a 200 page book for a week that I'm not enjoying.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - I haven't read that one yet. Can't wait to hear your thoughts on it.

annieb - I really liked Imagined London! I definitely couldn't have read Black and Blue if I had to see battered women in my everyday life. What a wonderful place to voluteer. I've been seeing things about that Boo book popping up everywhere. It looks really intense, I'll add it to the TBR list!

Teacher/Learner - I'll add that one to my list, it looks good. I've never liked Tyler's books as much, but maybe I just haven't read the right one yet.

Kristi - Yes, there was just too much and I felt like the characters got lost in the mix.

Jenners - I know! It's amazing how a short book can just drag if you aren't enjoying it.

Mumsy said...

I haven't read this one, but Quindlen's novel Rise and Shine is one of my comfort reads. As a writer, I like Quindlen much better than Jodi Picoult - Picoult always seems to go with a cheesy and/or sensational ending after raising serious moral issues. I always think her books deserve better endings, because I think she is actually a skillful writer.

BookQuoter said...

I wanted to like Roy's book too, but could not!!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Mumsy - I definitely agree about Picoult. I don't think her endings are fair to her characters or the relationships the reader builds with them. They feel like a cheap trick.

BookQuoter - Glad I'm not alone!