I’ve been looking forward to reading this for a while. I remember reading it many, many years ago and enjoying it, but I could remember next to nothing about it. It tells the story of Rahel and Estha, fraternal twins born in Kerala, India, over two periods of their lives: in 1969, when they are seven and their English cousin Sophie Mol comes to stay, and 1993, when the twins are 31 but the events of their childhood still echo through their lives.
I love the way Roy writes; she is playful with language in a way that makes it leap out from the page and do things unexpected and exciting. The sections set in 1969 have a dense, cloying heat about them that oppresses, and are written through the open, wondering eyes of a child. They contrast nicely with the chapters about 1993, which are more reflective, although no less passionate. Roy explores the way events in our childhood shape us as people, and for the twins it’s the small day to day happenings that influence their futures as much as the tragedies and upheavals.
The way the novel jumps about in time can be distracting; not only does it leap between 1969 and 1993, but there are regular flashbacks to periods in between, and signposts toward events that are yet to appear in the narrative. The distinctive writing style and alien setting put me off slightly at first, and it took me a while to really get into. I’m already looking forward to reading it again – there’s so much to take in, and I want my next reading to be slower and more languorous, so I can drink in the words and the atmosphere.