EACH decade of my adult life's been marked by books crucial to me, books I've loved and empathised with. In the '50s it was Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. In the '60s it was Camus' The Outsider and Durrel's Quartet; Murdoch in the '70s, Rushdie's Midnight's Children in the '80s. More recently, I took up The God of Small Things, rather sceptical and wary of the hype. Having read the first two pages I shut the book and did the extraordinary thing of taking off for two days to a quiet place in Dehradun where I could lie under a tree and devour this marvellous book in one gulp—a luxury I've not enjoyed in years. On the rare occasion when a book or film grips me I refuse to tear it apart critically. After reading Roy's masterpiece I've put down many books half-read which by comparison seemed either pale or pretentious. The God of Small Things was funny and clever, painterly and poignant; saved from being too beautiful by its visceral references and tragic denouement. I identify with it completely.
(Anjolie Ela Menon is a painter.)