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The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
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The Lowland (2013)

by Jhumpa Lahiri

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2,1061343,127 (3.93)1 / 267
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English (131)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  All (134)
Showing 1-5 of 131 (next | show all)
This is a beautifully written, very sad novel. No one, it seems, can connect with any other person, no one can live a fulfilling life. Fair enough, but at the end Lahiri sort of wraps up things in a way that seemed hurried and some what contrived to me, hence three rather than four stars. It just occurred to me that this is a sort of response to E.M. Forster. ( )
  nmele | Sep 26, 2017 |
I began this book reading halfheartedly. When almost everywhere, the book summarized was the story of two brothers whose life was changed by one major political event in Indian history. I didn't want to read it.

What i was not prepared for that how the book had an underlying notes of a turbulent relationships with its protagonists and how each character in this book is always trying to come in peace with themselves, their loved ones and their ideologies and beliefs.

I could go on and on writing about this book, but there are many more better reviews out there.

It would be quite underwhelming to say that i was consumed by the book. Even though the book revolves around a handful of characters, you can't help but to think about them.

I was reading this book at my workplace, so much that i thought that i would be kicked out.

Why you should read this book ? For its story, the way its been told. The way Jhumpa Lahiri narrates it, breathes life into every character, flawlessly travels in different timelines without a glitch without making the reader feeling disoriented, the glimpses of vintage Kolkata.

This book, will haunt you for a while once you finished reading it. I am sure pretty soon it will be made into a movie.

This line continue to haunt me- That though she’d been created by two people
who’d loved one another, she’d been raised by two who never did. ( )
  nefritri | Aug 16, 2017 |
This novel took me forever to read. I started with the audiobook on May 5, but couldn't get into it. Then I got the paper book thinking that maybe that would grab me better, but still I labored. The writing is beautiful, spare, poignant in its simplicity, but before I was fifty pages in, I decided to quit reading. I set the book on the kitchen table, and "Pulitzer Prize" glared up at me from the cover, so I made myself open the book again and keep going.

Despite the writing, despite the characters so realistically flawed, despite the kind of pacing that I usually love, which allows me to luxuriate in the language, the book remained a slog for me until the last page. Maybe the plot is just too much like real life: slow and accidental, full of poor choices and in the end meaningless, or at least pointless.

The "Pulitzer Prize" written on the cover on its own wouldn't have carried me through the novel. Four sentences (or two sentences and two fragments) a little more than a hundred pages in gave me the boost necessary to keep me reading:

"Though he looked like any other Bengali he felt an allegiance with the foreigners now. He shared with them a knowledge of elsewhere. Another life to go back to. The ability to leave." (113)

Although my life experiences are dramatically different from Subhash's, I could relate to the experience of being in a place where so many others feel at home, surrounded by people for whom the possibility of living anywhere else simply doesn't exist. For me, the possibility of leaving the place where I am is not only a possibility; it seems almost an inevitability. But since I'm not at home where I am anyway and never have been, this brings me comfort. It's the prospect of staying in one place that's unsettling to me.

I know this isn't quite what Subhash is feeling in this moment. He's not a perpetual stranger but rather has returned home a stranger because circumstances have cut him loose from the bonds that held him to that place, to those people. Even though the situation was different, those sentences spoke to me nevertheless and kept me reading.

However, the promise of those sentences was never realized for me. I don't regret reading the whole novel, but I probably could have stopped at any point and been no worse off. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Jul 5, 2017 |
From the book jacket: Born just fifteen months apart, Subhash and Udayan are inseparable brothers, one often mistaken for the other in the Calcutta neighborhood where they grow up. But they are also opposites, with gravely different futures ahead. It is the 1960s, and Udayan – charismatic and impulsive – finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty; he will give everything, risk all, for what he believes. Subhash, the dutiful son, does not share his brother’s political passion; he leaves home to pursue a life of scientific research in a quiet, coastal corner of America.

My reactions
This is a dense, character-driven story, that explores both the immigrant experience and the relationships between family members. Spanning decades, we watch these characters muddle through life, changing their goals and expectations as tragedy or joy, opportunity or obstacle comes up. No one wants to make these kinds of decisions, but sometimes life forces us to do so. In this way we can all relate to the characters. And yet, their experience is very different from my own, and while I feel for their plight, I’m not sure I understand them. And I definitely do not like a few of them.

The story is not linear; Lahiri uses flashbacks as characters remember past events or wonder about what might have happened. It is never recognized as such, but clearly several of them are suffering from PTSD, doing what they can to hide from the world and avoid further pain (a strategy which, of course, does not work).

Lahiri writes beautifully, and I kept marking passages. She has a gift for putting the reader into the setting with her descriptions. One can feel the heat and humidity of Calcutta, smell the fresh briny scent on the breeze of a Rhode Island beach, hear the sounds of a morning ritual, and taste the food served. Her characters observe what is going on around them and their hesitancy or surprise when encountering new experiences, made me look at my familiar surroundings with new eyes. For example:
The main doors were almost always left open, held in place by large rocks. The locks on the apartment doors were flimsy, little buttons on knobs instead of padlocks and bolts. But she was in a place where no one was afraid to walk about, where drunken students stumbled laughing down a hill, back to their dormitories at all hours of the night. At the top of the hill was the campus police station. But there were no curfews or lockdowns. Students came and went and did as they pleased.

I so wish this was a book-club selection, because I long to discuss it with someone. ( )
  BookConcierge | Jun 30, 2017 |
this is like the very long litetary equivalent of listening to Eleanor Rigby. look at all the lonely people. where do they all come from? India, apparently. ( )
  mfabriz | Jun 26, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 131 (next | show all)
The Lowland is a novel about the rashness of youth, as well as the hesitation and regret that can make a long life not worth living.
added by zhejw | editNPR, Maureen Corrigan (Oct 7, 2013)
 
Darkly hued fiction is commonplace in contemporary writing, but The Lowlands is sombre in a distinctly old-fashioned way; it’s not late-stage capitalism and/or environmental collapse that generate the misery in the novel, but rather that quaint concept of fate, or at least character-as-fate. Which is one reason why contemporary readers might balk at this story, its position on the shortlist for the 2013 Man Booker Prize notwithstanding. These lives seem rigged.
added by zhejw | editToronto Star, Patricia Hluchy (Oct 1, 2013)
 
There is real story bravery at work here. It would have been much easier for Lahiri to keep us in the thrust and heave of political agitation — to fixate, perhaps, on the implied betrayal woven into Subhash’s rescue.

Instead, in “The Lowland,” Lahiri tells a quietly devastating story about the nature of kindness. How it is never pure and often goes largely unrewarded. It simply is, and then the floodwaters rise and obscure its role in the landscape for a time.
added by zhejw | editBoston Globe, John Freeman (Sep 28, 2013)
 
Her prose, as always, is a miracle of delicate strength, like those threads of spider silk that, wound together, are somehow stronger than steel....

Although writing this fine is easy to praise, it’s not always easy to enjoy. And there’s something naggingly synthetic about this tableau of woe. “They were a family of solitaries,” Lahiri writes. “They had collided and dispersed.” But real people are not such shiny billiard balls of sorrow. I couldn’t shake the impression that Subhash and Gauri are being subjected to the author’s insistence on creating a certain sustained effect, as though they were characters in a fable. The years pass like the pages of a calendar being blown between scenes of a silent movie. Every time we catch up with this sad couple, they seem not to have changed at all, except that the plaque of guilt and secrecy has grown thicker. The ordinary complications of daily life do not dilute their desolation or complicate their lives. Gauri spends decades studying philosophy, but somehow the world’s accumulated wisdom never offers her any solace or disruption or insight. She might as well have been studying accounting or geology.

Perhaps these are petty complaints about a book that’s written with such poignancy. If parts of “The Lowland” feel static, it’s also true that Lahiri can accelerate the passage of time in moments of terror with mesmerizing effect.
added by zhejw | editWashington Post, Ron Charles (Sep 24, 2013)
 
Lahiri has an uncanny ability to control and mold sentences and action, imbuing the characters with dignity and restraint. But for me, this was also the novel's weakness; too often the narration felt cold, almost clinical, leaving me longing for a moment of thaw. I felt ambivalent. It's an intelligently structured book and while the tone and the pace rarely vary, the reader is always sure she is in the hands of a writer of integrity and skill. Yet I still yearned to know more about these people, especially Gauri....

Lahiri is an accomplished writer and though I felt, at times, disappointed, in the end I was sure that there is an important truth here — that life often denies us understanding, and sometimes all there is to hold on to is our ability to endure.
added by zhejw | editNPR, Ellah Allfrey (Sep 23, 2013)
 
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Epigraph
lascia ch'io torni al mio paese sepolto

nell'erba come in un mare caldo e pesante.

let me return to my home town entombed

in grass as in a warm and high sea.

- Giorgio Bassani, "Saluto a Roma"
Dedication
For Carin, who believed from the begining, and Alberto, who saw me to the end.
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East of the Tolly Club, after Deshapran Sashmal Road splits in two, there is a small mosque
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Book description
From Subhash's earliest memories, his brother was there. In the suburban streets of Calcutta where they wandered before dusk, Udayan was always in his older brother's sight. So close in age, they were inseparable and yet, as the years pass - as US tanks roll into Vietnam and riots sweep across India - their brotherly bond can do nothing to forestall the tragedy that will upend their lives. Udayan finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty. He will give everything, risk all for what he believes, and in doing so will transform the futures of those dearest to him
Epic in its canvas and intimate in its portrayal of lives undone and forged anew, The Lowland is a deeply felt novel of family ties that ineluctably define who we are.
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Brothers Subhash and Udayan Mitra pursue vastly different lives--Udayan in rebellion-torn Calcutta, Subhash in a quiet corner of America--until a shattering tragedy compels Subhash to return to India, where he endeavors to heal family wounds.

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