Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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With sensuous prose, a dreamlike style infused with breathtakingly beautiful images and keen insight into human nature, Roy's debut novel charts fresh territory in the genre of magical, prismatic literature. Set in Kerala, India, during the late 1960s when Communism rattled the age-old caste system, the story begins with the funeral of young Sophie Mol, the cousin of the novel's protagonists, Rahel and her fraternal twin brother, Estha. In a circuitous and suspenseful narrative, Roy reveals the family tensions that led to the twins' behavior on the fateful night that Sophie drowned. Beneath the drama of a family tragedy lies a background of local politics, social taboos and the tide of history‘all of which come together in a slip of fate, after which a family is irreparably shattered. Roy captures the children's candid observations but clouded understanding of adults' complex emotional lives. Rahel notices that "at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. The Big Things lurk unsaid inside." Plangent with a sad wisdom, the children's view is never oversimplified, and the adult characters reveal their frailties‘and in one case, a repulsively evil power‘in subtle and complex ways. While Roy's powers of description are formidable, she sometimes succumbs to overwriting, forcing every minute detail to symbolize something bigger, and the pace of the story slows. But these lapses are few, and her powers coalesce magnificently in the book's second half. Roy's clarity of vision is remarkable, her voice original, her story beautifully constructed and masterfully told. First serial to Granta; foreign rights sold in France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Holland, India, Greece, Canada and the U.K. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

It's easier to talk about small things because the big things in life are far too complex and painful. But even small things can loom large, and everything can change, radically, in a day, a moment. These are the sort of big things first-time novelist Roy ponders in this highly original and exquisitely crafted tale set in the tiny river town of Ayemenem in Kerala, India. The story revolves around a pair of twins, brother and sister, whose mother has left her violent husband to live with her blind mother and kind, if ineffectual, brother, Chacko. Chacko's ex-wife, an Englishwoman, has returned to Ayemenem after a long absence, bringing along her and Chacko's lovely young daughter. Their arrival not only unsettles the already tenuous balance of the divisive household, it also coincides with political unrest. The twins and their cousin--each brimming with vernal intelligence, innocent love and longing, curiosity and fear--barely have time to get acquainted before tragedy strikes, first in the form of an accident (caused by carelessness in love), then murder (the result of ancient prejudice). Roy's intricate, enchanting, and often wry tale is positively mythical in its cosmic inevitability, evocative circularity, and paradoxical wisdom. --Donna Seaman


Choice
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Winner of the 1997 Booker Prize, this much-feted novel does not quite live up to its advance publicity but marks an auspicious literary debut nevertheless. Set in south India, the narrative circles around a traumatic event in the life of a particular family in the late 1960s and traces the playing out of the consequences of this event in the years following. Perspective centers on two children--twins (boy and girl) whose codependent universe is torn apart by the developments in question. Reminiscent in some ways of the work of Jamaica Kincaid and in others (almost inevitably) of that of Salman Rushdie, the novel's mannered construction threatens on occasion to overwhelm it, but it is, in the end, redeemed by its compassion, insight, and commitment to its own conception. A flawed novel, perhaps, but a capacious one that possesses at least the courage of its own very creditable convictions. Recommended for all readers. N. F. Lazarus Brown University


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

This "piercing study of childhood innocence lost" mirrors the growing pains of modern India. Twin sister and brother Rahel and Estha are at the center of a family in crisis and at the heart of this "moving and compactly written book." (LJ 4/15/97) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Roy's remarkable first novel opens during a "hot, brooding" May in India, with fruit ripening and the sunshine glittering sharply. The novel that unfolds is not, however, some lyrical paean to the dreamy, steamy East but rather a piercing study of childhood innocence lost, told in a voice that is witty, irreverent, at times even caustic. Twin sister and brother Rahel and Estha, born with a "single Siamese soul" though they don't look a bit alike, are at the center of a family in crisis, a family where "uncles became fathers, mothers lovers, and cousins died and had funerals." At the funeral for little Sophie Mol that fills the book's first pages, the twins and their mother must stand apart. Why they are forced to do so‘and how their implication in Sophie Mol's death drives them to rebellion and something beyond despair‘"personal despair could never be desperate enough"‘is the import of this moving and compactly written book. Highly recommended.‘Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.