09 August 2013

The Lowland; Jhumpa Lahiri

The LowlandThe Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Spanning generations and continents, The Lowland is a great new Lahiri read. We open in India, shortly after Partition and end in the US in this century - and in between we read about two brothers, what drove them apart, and how that affects their family.

At first Subhash and Udayan are inseparable, to the point where Subhash doesn't start school until they can go together. But as they age, Udayan becomes more political, more aware, while Subhash just basically plods along in school. Eventually, Subhash comes to America for his doctorate and Udayan lives with his parents in Calcutta, more and more drawn into the Naxalite rebellion and political movement. Udayan's death brings Subhash home and there he decides to marry Gauri, his brother's pregnant widow - it's not a happy, successful marriage. Throughout the book we get to hear from Subhash and Gauri, and eventually their daughter Bela and Subhash's mother. Their lives are at once quotidian and extraordinary, as they react to events and the people around them. There's very little proactive plot here, so when someone really does do something it stands out.

For some reason I thought Calcutta/Kolkata was further south, not near East Pakistan/Bangladesh. I'd never heard of the Naxalite rebellion either, and their vision of a Maoist India was, well, disturbing.

ARC provided by publisher.

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