Hmm. I admire this book. It is exquisitely well-constructed. It is original. I love the way Roy plays with language and creates a language of her own. I love her vivid descriptions, and the exactitude and verisimilitude of her childhood memories. I can relate to what she mentions–the Indian childhood; the passion for “The Sound of Music;” the mean, very mean female relatives whose greed and pettiness eventually drove them crazy; the casual, mean and cruel bullying of children, especially free spirits; the repressive and pervasive smallness of mind that can drive free spirits crazy; the favouring of males. Oh overall, the sadness of it, the waste through repression and conformity of what might have been.
Having mentioned these things, it is not surprising that I found it very painful to read. The casual sacrifice and brutalizing of the lower-caste lover was unbearably painful, and then the subsequent ostracism of Ammu herself, which drove her to her early death; traumatized her son, so that he parted with his sanity; and left her daughter barely functioning, though traumatized. And then, the stereotypical vicious unmarried aunt, the villianness of the piece, who inherits all the gold–and wears it all at once, driven to a kind of craziness by her unrestrained greed.
I do recommend it, but will probably not read it again myself. It rouses a flood of anger and inchoate memories in me, all of them painful!