Making your way as a woman Indian novelist in a highly competitive, richly crowded, premium-quality field must be difficult for anyone. Circumstances might seem more difficult still if you have a similar given name and the same surname as another Indian woman novelist, one who has written a masterpiece of modern literature.
Arundhati Roy's focus, including in The God of Small Things, is strikingly divergent from Anurandha Roy's in The Earthspinner. Oddly, though, this new novel is especially alert to the magic and luminescence of little things.
Spinning earth is a rather poetic definition of the craft of pottery. Here, the potter plans to create a terracotta horse, one which conforms to and honours religious observance and local customs, as well as the skills of its creator.
The most celebrated horse in literature, the Trojan horse, does not actually appear in the epic usually associated with it, The Iliad. Michael Morpugo's War Horse and George Orwell's Boxer carry two first-rate novels. Black Beauty, My Friend Flicka and The Silver Brumby retain a loyal following among youngsters.
Unlike Roy's, all but one of those horses are animate, but none of them is born from "a place deep inside (him) where memories and stories lay waiting like a deep seam of clay".
Turning to those little things, Roy is gifted at pungent, economical, evocative descriptions. In a book notionally about a horse, Roy includes lovely accounts of dogs, whether one sporting "a tail as curly as a comma" or another leaning out a car window, "gobbling the world with each breath".
All we need to know about one character is revealed when he takes a day's leave to listen to a cricket match on his radio. The most touching page in the novel is one of a series of poignant letters to an agony aunt, disclosing emotions otherwise subdued or sublimated.
Alongside extended passages set at a university in England, Roy develops two burgeoning stories, each created and moulded by force of character. One involves making the horse, the other the evolution of romance. In both those stories, the potter "willed the universe to re-align itself to make room for his desire".
The potter and his love are Hindu and Muslim respectively. This novel is not, however, a northern Indian adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. For that he need to await a film version by Vishal Bhardwaj, who has already directed stunning adaptations of Macbeth and Hamlet.
Roy, who lives in the Himalaya, has learned to watch. Few writers could be more absorbed by how a blind calligrapher "transformed the certainty of sight to his hands".
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