August 12, 2004

the namesake

for someone who is yet to read her first pulitzer prize-winning story collection ‘the interpreter of maladies’, jhumpa lahiri’s second book and debut novel the namesake, comes as a refreshing literary surprise. here is something less ‘magical’, but poignant enough nevertheless, for you to pick it up again.

lahiri’s novel revolves around four members of a family and single event(s) that change the course of their lives. the book that saves ashoke ganguli from the train accident, his life with ashima in america where, torn between duty towards her new husband and her roots in india, she chooses the first and lives a life of compromises…right from altering favourite (indian) recipes to choosing friends, and having to maintain a social ‘bengali’ group with frequent parties for every birthday or ritual.

an official formality in the hospital forces the new parents to name their boy after ashoke’s favourite author nikolai gogol; something that the (less indian and almost american-) boy grows to despise throughout his life – only to understand its significance and want go back to it much later.

through its very plausible conflicts and situations, lahiri’s narrative carries you through two generations of a family split by the lifestyle and cultural differences between two continents 8000 miles apart. every character in the novel has been given an individual-short-story-like treatment, letting you mature along with them as the pages turn. her just way of handling the finale leaves you wanting to read more, yet pleasantly satisfied when you put the book down at last.


  • reshma said:

    agree, beautiful storytelling.

  • Nikhil said:

    Lahiri is, no doubt, a refreshing author and this latest offering was no exception. But one more book along the lines of “Intepreter…” or “The Namesake” will be *real* predictable in prose and narrative style.

    Don’t get me wrong: the way she paints her characters and their emotive complexes in the story’s general context is amazing. One more book won’t make her wonderful ability repetitive; it will just take away from the frills of her talents and will make you focus on the story in itself. Almost like you don’t want the whole package given you’ve read her character portraits over and over and over…

    I’ll shut up now 🙂 Nice site, by the way!

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