Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri


In times of stress, I always retreat to my books...it really relaxes me and gets my mind off my worries before bed...because it helps me get lost in someone else's story!

The latest novel I have read is "The Lowland" by Jhumpa Lahiri. I have read all her books and love all of them. I can really relate to her tales of multiculturalism, identity, and transparency. 

"The Lowland" is different than Jhumpa's other books because it is not a short story collection. It is a multi-generational saga that spans continents and characters. The book is about how one tragic event touches the lives of everyone involved, and affects future generations who inherit certain personality patterns and family pathologies.

As an only child, one of the things that I am fascinated by are sibling relationships (duh, because I have none!) In this book, the main characters were twins, so it was extra interesting for me.

One of the recurring themes in Jhumpa's books is of immigration, starting over, and finding/making a home away from home. She always also has some character in her books who is in an intercultural relationship - which I can so relate to, of course!

One of the things that I learned about was that of the Naxalite movement in Calcutta. I didn't know much about it, other than the fact that I know there are Maoist terrorists in our home state of Andhra Pradesh, which we hear of from time to time in the news.

I loved this book - I totally got lost in it and had no sense of time as I was glued to the pages. I literally cried at the last page....

Here are some quotes from the book that moved me...

"But he was no longer in Tollygunge. He had stepped out of it as he had stepped so many mornings out of his dreams, its reality and its particular logic rendered meaningless in the light of day. The difference was so extreme that he could not accommodate the two places together in his mind. In this enormous new country, there seemed to be nowhere for the old to reside. There was nothing to link them; he was the sole link. Here life ceased to obstruct or assault him. Here was a place where humanity was not always pushing, rushing, running as if with a fire at its back" - p.34

"This was the woman Narasimhan had married, as opposed to whatever girl from Madras his family wanted for him. Subhash wondered how his family reacted to her. He wondered if she'd ever been to India. If she had, he wondered whether she'd liked it or hated it. He could not guess from looking at her." - p.37

"On weekdays, as soon as she picked Bela from the bus stop and brought her home, she went straight into the kitchen, washing up the morning dishes she'd ignored, then getting dinner started. She measured out the nightly cup of rice, letting it soak in a pan on the counter. She peeled onions and potatoes and picked through lentils and prepared another night's dinner, then fed Bela. She was never able to understand why this relatively unchallenging set of chores felt so relentless. When she was finished, she did not understand why they had depleted her." - p.163

"With children the clock is reset. We forget what came before." - p. 167

"She'd convinced herself that Subhash was her rival, and that she was in competition for him for Bela, a competition that felt insulting, unjust. But of course it had not been a competition, it had been her own squandering. Her own withdrawal, covert, ineluctable. With her own hand she'd painted herself into a corner, and then out of the picture altogether." - p. 232

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Dear readers, what book should I read next? And ADD ME on Good Reads!

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14 comments

  1. If you've never read Water for Elephants, you definitely should. I sincerely hope you've never seen to movie because it is garbage. It's not really about multiculturalism but it is based around historical happenings. It is the only book that made me flat out bawl like a baby (From Happiness!). I'm so sorry to hear about your thatha, I'm sure he will always be with you in some way. I hope your dad has a smooth recovery. Best Wishes.

    Alexandra

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    Replies
    1. I have heard great things about that book, I would absolutely love to read it!

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  2. Oh - I am so excited now! We are just starting to read this in my book club:-) After your beautiful review, I cant wait:-) It seems so lovely and interesting:-)

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    1. It is sooooooo good, you will love it. Quite haunting...I finished it in less than a week :)

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  3. Jhumpa Lahiri is my fav author and I have been dying to read Lowland since a long time. Your review about the books intrigues me to get it ASAP and quench my thirst. She is a fantastic author and you are a fantastic blogger! Keep writing :-)

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    1. Thanks Shilpi!
      Yes, it was sooooo good, you have to read. It was different that her other novels...
      I read an article about Jhumpa recently that she has moved to Rome and learned Italian, now she writes in Italian. I can't wait til her next novel comes out!

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  4. Jhumpa Lahiri is a bit too sad for me, although she writes beautifully.
    Have you read Kiran Desai's "Inheritance of Loss"? It is a bit tragic but also quite funny & won the 2006 Man Booker Prize.

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    1. OMG this novel was by far her SADDEST.....it was based around a tragic event, I literally almost cried.
      Inheritance of loss is one of my all-time faves. I just love Indian literature....I recently googled the Man booker prize nominees and there are so many Indian authors on there. Hope to read all of them.

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  5. @Alexandra

    Jhumpa Lahiri and Chetan Bhagat write about contempory India. I suggest you read English transalations of great Indian writers like Rabindranath Tagore, Munshi Premchand, Mahasweta Devi, Vijay Tendulkar, Bhisham Sahani, Sarat Chandra

    http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/premchand11.pdf

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11886807-selected-stories-of-sharatchandra

    http://lotusreads.blogspot.in/2006/11/parineeta-by-sarat-chandra.html


    I know it would be difficult to get hold of english transalations of these great writers but it is worth the effort. India has a huge treasure of literature in Indian languages. Unfortunately, due to snobbery attached with English lanaguage, Hindi and other regional lanaguages are neglected. People have no clue about the fantastic literary treasure we have in out country.

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    1. Great recommendations, I am obsessed with Indian literature so it is nice to get some more authors names, especially some older ones. I love Tagore, but haven't heard of the rest. I will check them out...
      Hubby is leaving India in a few days and I will ask him to pick some up.

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    2. @Alexandra

      I suggest you read Sarat Chandra Chattopadhaya's novels. He was a Bengali writer who who was considered revolutionary for his time. All her female characters wer free, strong individuals, so he was kind of scandel in those days. He was writer of "Devdas". The same Devdas which was made into a grand film. I actually cringe when I see the modern Devdas. Sharat Chandra would have been turning in his grave. His autobiography "Awara Messiah", if you get hold of the english translation is a master piece.

      http://books.google.co.in/books?id=AhyruplxJwkC&pg=PR15&lpg=PR15&dq=english+translation+of+sarat+chandra's+autobiography&source=bl&ots=RKejMJjett&sig=MA4A2uRLgG7qiZOsOMfUUXdh9CQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ayccU46nDMumrQfX5IGIBw&ved=0CFcQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=english%20translation%20of%20sarat%20chandra's%20autobiography&f=false

      The second writer is Munshi Premchand, the greatest writer of Hindi. He brought the day to day life and stuggles of the ordinary famers and villagers in rural India into his stories. He is the ginat of Hindi literature.

      https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13503786-selected-stories-of-premchand

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    3. @anonymous - excellent recommendation.

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  6. Do you have any suggestions for me to read? I am looking for nice Indian books to get to know the culture a bit faster.

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    1. Any books from Jhumpa Lahiri - she writes about mixed marriages and intercultural issues. Especially her book "Unaccustomed Earth". Reading books by Indian authors is the fastest way to understand the culture, even more than going to India. Because the books explain certain cultural thought-processes.
      Others I would recommend-
      Inheritance of Loss - Kiran Desai
      A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
      The Twentieth Wife - Indu Sundaresan
      Sister of my Heart- Chitra Divakaruni
      The marriage bureau for rich people - Farahad Zama
      Ladies Coupe - Anita Nair
      Secret Daughter - Shilpi Gowda
      Holy Cow - Sarah Macdonald
      A good Indian wife - Anne Cherian

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