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20) The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy
21) Beloved, by Toni Morrison

Further to my previous post, these two books turned out to be a pretty effective paired reading, though rather morbid if you are lying in bed trying to forget about feeling ill.

Both are about poor and oppressed families in difficult circumstances - a down-at-heel Syrian Orthodox family in Kerala in the mid-twentieth century for Arundhati Roy, former slaves and their children in Cincinnati in the mid-nineteenth century for Toni Morrison. Both books are about the horrible death of a child which turnout not to be all that it seems. Both are told in a narrative that flips back and forth between the time of the death, the family history leading up to it, and the early adulthood of other children who were around at the time. Both, oddly enough, feature old women called Baby.

Frankly the Arundhati Roy book was much more enjoyable. It is a fascinating portrait of different parts of a diverse society, attractively quirky characters, even shafts of actual humour in among the grimness of the main plot strand. Toni Morrison's world seemed much more starkly black and white (in several senses); the violence was more horrific, the situation worse, the resolution (for my tired and somewhat ill brain) rather more confusing. But I wouldn't really recommend either to a friend I was trying to cheer up.

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