The God of Small Things is not written in a sequential narrative style in which events unfold chronologically. Instead, the novel is a patchwork of flashbacks and lengthy sidetracks that weave together to tell the story of the Ipe family. The main events of the novel are traced back through the complex history of their causes, and memories are revealed as they relate to each other thematically and as they might appear in Rahel's mind. Although the narrative voice is omniscient, it is loosely grounded in Rahel's perspective, and all of the episodes of the novel progress towards the key moments in Rahel's life.
Point of view
The book is narrated in the third person. However, during a great part of the narrative, the reader sees everything through Rahel's eyes. This gives the reader a very special insight into the happenings and characters. There are various moments which cross each other all through the book. One moment is in 1969 when Rahel is a seven-year-old child. At these moments everything is seen through a child's eye with a child's feelings and rationale. Facts, objects and people are seen in a completely different light.
The story is set in the village of Ayemenem in the Kottayam district of Kerala, India. The main part of the plot takes place in 1969, a time of changes in ideology and influence.
India is a very complex society with various cultural and religious habits and beliefs. Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and Muslims share the same space. Society is divided not only by the very strict caste system but also by class consciousness. There are a number of languages spoken in India, but the higher classes make a point of speaking English, sending their sons to study in England and adopting certain English habits. Kerala, where the story is set itself has a complex social setup with Hindus, Muslims and Christians having lifestyle and traditions different from each other. It also has the largest number of Christian population compared to other parts of India, predominantly Saint Thomas Christians or Syrian Christians. Kottayam is a district where the Christians are a majority.
Arundhati Roy describes her book as "an inextricable mix of experience and imagination."