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The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri

I was pleased to find this book nestling on a corner shelf in my local bookstore and the fact that it addresses one of my most favourite themes of immigrant/cross cultural literature made the decision of buying this book a rhetoric one.  

People leaving their home land to seek livelihoods in different countries, often across continents, is a notion that I find very interesting not only because it fills me with hope but also because it gives me greater insight into how people adapt and assimilate into their adopted countries.

The Namesake is set in an era distinct from today where we take technology for granted. It takes you back in time when the modes of communication across countries relied on a precious telephone call or in most cases a cryptic telegram.  The book transpires between Calcutta (India) and Massachusetts (America) and begins with a Bengali couple Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli moving to America as they leave behind the comfort of home and routine.  They are newlyweds and along with getting used to each other, they also have to get used to a completely different country with a culture distinct from their own.

Slowly, they try and adapt to their new surroundings with Ashima finding it a lot harder than Ashoke to call America ‘home’. She hankers after the traditions she is so used to and is often taken aback with the newness that confronts her in everyday life.  When the Gangulis are blessed with a child, the naming ceremony pans out quite differently from what they would have imagined leading to the name ‘Gogol’ that becomes the identity of their first born. Lahiri beautifully draws out the cultural conflicts faced by Ashoke and Ashima specifically when it comes to their parenting style(s) and focuses on Gogol’s search for identity. The more I think about the story, the less I want to write about it as it is very easy for me to cloud your perception. This is a felony I won’t commit and will leave you to pursue the book with an almost blank canvas.

Having left India some years ago and currently living the immigrant experience, it was easy for me to relate to a lot of the situations depicted in this book. There were times when I nodded in agreement and others when I smirked in quiet amusement.

Lahiri’s writing is lyrical and evocative. There were moments during the course of the narrative that I had to detach as I could feel myself getting carried away by the emotion of it all. It was hard to neglect the strongest pull there ever is - that of the motherland calling out to her child.




Comments

  1. lucid and subtle and I can still understand your desire to contain putting too much emotion through your words there...

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    1. Thank you for echoing my sentiments :)

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  2. Amazing review. Innovative use of phrases (Eg: era distinct from today where we take technology for granted) and adjectives (precious telephone call, Cryptic telegram) so as the readers can identify with it .

    This book has been on my list to read for a very long time now, especially having experienced (or rather experiencing) the journey of an immigrant here in another country for many years now after I left India and so I can easily relate to the subject and few situations/scenarios.

    I must confess here that I've actually watched the movie based on this book under the same name (really glad that credit was openly given to the Original author) and found that the filmography actually captured emotion and theme of the subject brilliantly. Ideally, I always prefer reading a book before watching any filmed version of it (documentary, movie, etc) but this time it would be the other way around for me.

    Originally, I was a little apprehensive in reading the book after watching the movie, as I didn't want to be disappointed in regards to if the emotion and theme of the subject as been portrayed differently in the book and after reading this review (which I'm really glad I did as a lot of reviews on this book that I read earlier did not capture what I was trying to look for perhaps, the reason being the people reviewing it did not have a first hand experience of experiencing an immigrant journey in a completely new country), the next book on my Reading list is certainly "The Namesake".

    Thanks again. Good luck with all future blogs. Keep Writing !! :)

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    1. Thank you so much for the wonderful feedback! I hope you enjoy reading The Namesake, I am sure you won't be disappointed :)

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  3. Loved your descriptions.. interesting review... I have always wanted to read this one, but never had the right chance..

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    1. Thank you! Hope you enjoy reading the book.

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