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April 09, 2020 Thursday 11:48:15 PM IST

Books for Corona Lockdown: God of Small Things Among Recommended Reads

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski

Lockdown is the perfect time to read good quality English literature. Louise D'Arcens, English Professor at Macquarie University has given her suggestion of ten books.The books show how the English language has made itself available to tell stories of different cultures and places far beyond the land of its origin. 
The ten books are:
1) 1000AD: Beawulf- It was written in old English language by an anonymous poet and it tells the story of the warrior Beowulf and his battles with otherworldly creatures. Beowulf has inspired a generation of writers. (If you like Beowulf, also try The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien.
2) 1300s Sir Gawain and The Green Knight
This is a delightful poem by an anonymous poet and a good example of medieval roman. It is focussed on Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur's Round Table. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight continues to be quite frequently reworked for children; there is something about Gawain’s vulnerability as a hero – his intense humanity – that makes his appeal enduring.

3) 1688: Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
Aphra is a famous women writer in English and gives readers a sense of early form of novel. It is a slave narrative, written in the early stages of England's quest to become an imperial power.
4)1749: The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling by Henry Fielding
The novel takes a picaresque form, a comic genre that follows the adventures and misadventures of typically a low-born character. Even though it was written in the 18th century, Tom Jones has a freshness to it that modern readers can continue to enjoy.
5) 1870s: Middlemarch by George Eliot
It was originally serialised in 1871-1872 before becoming a novel. Middlemarch has a big cast of characters and the different chapters pursue their stories, and then you see them all intricately interwoven with each other, so at times it is quite gossipy and you get fantastically well-drawn characters.
6)1905: House of Mirth by Edith Wharton tells the story of a clever and complex women Lily Bart. It is implicitly feminist in the way in which it shows us how a woman's security is tied up in finding a relationship that can support her.
7) 1937: Their Eyes Were Watching God
It is about a woman called Janie Crawford whose family has a recent slave history and portrays the complex struggle for self-realisation.
8)1980's An Angel at My Table by Janet Frame
This is by the New Zealand author Janet Frame and part of her three series autobiography. It traces the poverty of her family in rural New Zealand and suffered mental illness and how she became a writer.
9) 1997: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
It is captivating, intergenerational family sag set in Kerala, South India. It gives us a sweeping arc from the late 1960s to the 1990s, following fraternal twins Estha and Rahel through their early life into adulthood, and encompassing history, politics and a love story across the castes.It is an incredibly rich rendering of the social and physical environment of southern India, and an example of how English literature opens itself up to all these different lives in different English-speaking communities. Indian writers have a long tradition of long-form storytelling, and The God of Small Things exemplified what a number of Indian writers have been doing in English, which is, giving us a really big canvas of history and politics, but capturing it through the complexity and intimacy of a family. 
10) 2010: That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott
Set in Western Australia in the early 19th century, the Miles Franklin Award-winning That Deadman Dance is a colonial encounter novel, looking back at a moment in Australia where things almost looked like they could go differently from how they went.
The protagonist is an indigenous boy called Bobby Wabalanginy, a mediator figure who is a link between his own Noongar community and the white newcomers with whom he is fascinated and forges quite positive – although not equal – relations.
The newcomers become quite dependent on Bobby and the Noongar, and the novel follows the mounting tensions between the colonisers and the indigenous people and how Bobby is ultimately placed in a difficult position between the communities.
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