the wonderful world of veena.

30 December 2014

book review: the lowland [jhumpa lahiri].

I am unabashedly obsessed with Jhumpa Lahiri. I have now read all four of her publications - two novels and two collections of short stories - and it is safe to say that she is one of my all-time favourite writers. She captures the Indian-American voice better than anyone else I've read, and I actively look forward to the times she comes out with a new work.

The Lowland is Lahiri's most recent work, and I just finished on my journey back to India. It was different from what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I found it to be bleaker than her previous writing, but her knack for expressing emotions in words is unsurpassed by her peers.

At its heart The Lowland is the story of two brothers and how their lives take drastically different turns. While one leaves Calcutta in the upheaval of the 1970s to pursue his doctorate in a sleepy town in Rhode Island, the other joins the Marxist movement and gets caught up in ridding India of class disparities. Barely over a year apart and having grown up practically as one entity, this separation affects each brother and those in the periphery of their lives in different ways.

In some ways I wish I had read this book earlier in the year, because I was so distracted by packing and traveling and the holidays to properly enjoy it. Some days I would read 40 pages, and others I wouldn't read any, falling into my bed after a long day of running around and going straight to sleep.

But in other ways I'm glad that I read it when I did, on the cusp of returning to India. Although the book is set - as most of Lahiri's stories are - in Calcutta, there are so many elements that were still relatable for me. I somehow manage to fall into Lahiri's stories at just the right time in my life, so much so that it sometimes feels as though she is writing just for me. [obviously I know this is not true]

As always, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It's not a happy tale by any means, but it's just so darn good.

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