Saturday, January 23, 2010

What I'm Reading Now

At Harding, all of our senior English majors are required to participate in Senior Symposium. They choose a paper written for a previous class, and under the supervision of a faculty mentor, expand it into a scholarly research paper, which they present to an audience of faculty and fellow students.

Faculty mentors can get lucky several ways. First of all, you can be assigned to a student who wants to write about a book you've already read--not as much work for you. Secondly, the book your student has chosen to write about is not one you've read, but it is one that's been on your huge, nebulous, ever-growing to-read list (so you're forced/you get to move it up to the top of your list, and it becomes work-related reading, which relieves guilt. I've got to read it! It's my job!). Thirdly, you can be assigned to work with a great student. Or, if you're really lucky, you get assigned to a great student who wants to write about a book you've already read.

Well, it's not a book I've already read, but I believe I'm really going to enjoy working with my student. And the book she's chosen to write about, Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, is great reading. I started it last Friday, and I'm almost finished with it.

From Publishers Weekly
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.

1 comment:

lisa b said...

I really liked this when I read it a few years ago. It's everything I expected from a novel set in India. I think you'll love it.