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The Namesake: A Novel by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake: A Novel (original 2003; edition 2004)

by Jhumpa Lahiri

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9,784267296 (3.91)1 / 421
Title:The Namesake: A Novel
Authors:Jhumpa Lahiri
Info:Mariner Books (2004), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 291 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction, East Indian Americans, Assimilation, Immigrants, Read

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The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (2003)


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English (263)  Norwegian (1)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  Japanese (1)  All (267)
Showing 1-5 of 263 (next | show all)
This is a wonderful novel that follows the lives of an Indian-American family, specifical Ashima, the mother, and Gogol/Nikhil, the son. It touches on everything: the hard, difficult-to-describe trials of being a foreigner in a strange land, the even more difficult-to-describe "otherness" first-generation children of such individuals feels on both sides of their lives (that is to say, their family life and their public lives), the small details that contrast jarringly with the norm, and the struggle to find one's self when too many people are telling you what you should be. The story shifts from one character to the next with ease - while this enhances the storytelling, it retracts from the characterization of the main characters, for the voice does not shift with the perspective, and you really only find the differences between the characters when they are contemplating one another. Lahiri has a wonderful way of playing with story tense, however, that allows the reader to feel as though they are thinking the thoughts of the character - particularly impressive, since the entire things is in third-person-concentrated perspective.
This book is appropriate for high school and above aged readers. Some graphic language and graphic sex; minimal graphic violence. ( )
  J9Plourde | Jun 13, 2017 |
The narrative is so clear and written with ease that I easily became engrossed in the story of the Ganguli family as it spanned throughout the years, each page, a catalyst to further reading and emotional investment in the book’s characters.

The flow of the language is natural and rich in the truth it reveals about the immigrant experience, and though specifically about coming from India and making a life in America, Lahiri writes with authentic detail and wisdom about the described immigrant experience that it not only crosses borders, but speaks truthfully and universally.

And though the main character, Gogol “Nikhil” Ganguli is the centre of the narrative, the specific perspectives and sufferings of the family that surround him in their own immigrant experience, found in his father, Ashoke, his mother, Ashima, and his sister, Sonali, speak the truth about the different trials and responses to transition.

Lahiri speaks to the meaning of being ethnic, marginal, liminal, and the complexity of defining yourself and home. There is a tension and dichotomy between the previous country and the new, and the expectations one not only has of himself, but the expectations of those around him, and how these definitions stretch and become blurred to become something new entirely.
The gut of the book is about the naming of things and people; how one identifies himself, namely, Gogol. How and why and what he was named, a central theme in the novel.

It’s a story about coming into one’s own understanding of his relationship to his culture (old and new), his family, his home, himself, and his name.

Surprisingly, the film is as beautiful and rich as the novel it is based on.
( )
1 vote ZaraD.Garcia-Alvarez | Jun 6, 2017 |
Readable and easy length. Gogol was the family name and Indians also have a 'public name but Gogol stuck. Some nice quotes throughout, and woven in to the story of him growing up marrying a chosen local educated lady who later had an affair so one can reflect on these issues in all this as she had med her lover years ago and knew she was attracted to him.
  Annabel1954 | Feb 25, 2017 |
The themes of Lahiri's story are universal - parent-child relationship, identity, living in a foreign land hence adjustment and cultural differences. You can identify with them even when you don't come from the same background as Gogol and his family. The book also does not have a cliched ending, not everything ends with happily ever after. Lahiri's crisp writing further makes this a good read. ( )
  siok | Jan 30, 2017 |
“That's the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”

This novel spans the first three decades of a young man's life, a man who is a first generation immigrant into America of Indian parentage. When the boy is born his parents give him a temporary "petname" Gogol while they wait for the "good" one being sent by airmail from his maternal grandmother back in India. However, the missive never arrives and due to American bureaucracy the boy is left with this unusual moniker.

Almost two decades later, Gogol is finding his strange name - neither Bengali nor American - a burden, an embarrassment and a bore. He makes a legal change to Nikhil and is at first pleased with his new name but he also feels a sense of guilt that he has somehow betrayed his parents.

From this simple misunderstanding the author is able to turn a seemingly trivial occurrence into something much larger: namely the story of a man and his family, of his life and hopes, loves and sorrows with all the unfortunate pitfalls that afflict life, sudden death, a first kiss, marriage and divorce. Her skill at deploying small physical details as a path into character is both clever and enjoyable. When Gogol meets Maxine, soon to be a girlfriend and daughter of liberal American parents wonderfully Lahiri manages to contrast her home life with that of Gogol's with a touching simplicity. In particular when the girl Maxine meets Gogol's mother, two women who despite both living in one country are from two very different worlds that is not merely denoted by age alone. Nothing seems artificial. Nothing seems remotely made-up.

As you will expect this novel is wide ranging in its outlook and there are many themes throughout. There is family, foreignness, home,love, differences between life in India, America and Europe but perhaps the over-riding theme is dissatisfaction. Gogol's mother, Ashima, in particular feels a dissatisfaction with her life in America caused by her homesickness and the lack of her extended family whereas Gogol feels dissatisfaction caused by alienation and cultural differences he feels within America, the country of his birth.

I found this a very enjoyable and beautifully written novel which gives an interesting insight in the trials and tribulations of immigrants trying to settle in a foreign land, in particular one with a very different cultural background from their own. A book that I would certainly recommend. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Oct 9, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 263 (next | show all)
Jhumpa Lahiri's quietly dazzling new novel, ''The Namesake,'' is that rare thing: an intimate, closely observed family portrait that effortlessly and discreetly unfolds to disclose a capacious social vision.
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The reader should realize himself that it could not have happened otherwise, and that to give him any other name was quite out of the question.
        -- Nikolai Gogol, 'The Overcoat'
For Alberto and Octavio,
whom I call by other names
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On a sticky August evening two weeks before her due date, Ashima Ganguli stands in the kitchen of a Central Square apartment, combining Rice Krispies and Planters peanuts and chopped red onion in a bowl.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618485228, Paperback)

Any talk of The Namesake--Jhumpa Lahiri's follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning debut, Interpreter of Maladies--must begin with a name: Gogol Ganguli. Born to an Indian academic and his wife, Gogol is afflicted from birth with a name that is neither Indian nor American nor even really a first name at all. He is given the name by his father who, before he came to America to study at MIT, was almost killed in a train wreck in India. Rescuers caught sight of the volume of Nikolai Gogol's short stories that he held, and hauled him from the train. Ashoke gives his American-born son the name as a kind of placeholder, and the awkward thing sticks.

Awkwardness is Gogol's birthright. He grows up a bright American boy, goes to Yale, has pretty girlfriends, becomes a successful architect, but like many second-generation immigrants, he can never quite find his place in the world. There's a lovely section where he dates a wealthy, cultured young Manhattan woman who lives with her charming parents. They fold Gogol into their easy, elegant life, but even here he can find no peace and he breaks off the relationship. His mother finally sets him up on a blind date with the daughter of a Bengali friend, and Gogol thinks he has found his match. Moushumi, like Gogol, is at odds with the Indian-American world she inhabits. She has found, however, a circuitous escape: "At Brown, her rebellion had been academic ... she'd pursued a double major in French. Immersing herself in a third language, a third culture, had been her refuge--she approached French, unlike things American or Indian, without guilt, or misgiving, or expectation of any kind." Lahiri documents these quiet rebellions and random longings with great sensitivity. There's no cleverness or showing-off in The Namesake, just beautifully confident storytelling. Gogol's story is neither comedy nor tragedy; it's simply that ordinary, hard-to-get-down-on-paper commodity: real life. --Claire Dederer

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:11 -0400)

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A young man born of Indian parents in America struggles with issues of identity from his teens to his thirties.

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