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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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10,314278407 (3.91)1 / 451
Title:The Namesake: A Novel
Authors:Jhumpa Lahiri
Info:Mariner Books (2004), Paperback
Collections:Your library

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The Namesake: A Novel by Jhumpa Lahiri (2003)

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English (273)  Norwegian (1)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  Japanese (1)  All languages (277)
Showing 1-5 of 273 (next | show all)
I don't understand all the hype and praise for The Namesake: I love reading about crosscultural experiences but this book plods on and on for nearly 300 pages without ever truly getting to the heart of the conflicts that ail the title character. I think part of the problem is the writing, which is technically good and correct but emotionally flat and antiseptic. Lahiri piles on detail after detail -- clothing, food, and furnishings -- but they feel anchorless, too, adding to the impression of being removed from the book's people. Many people have recommended The Namesake to me, so I expected to love it, but it felt too much like Lahiri extended a short story to novel length, stretching the characters' passion over far too many pages. ( )
  LizoksBooks | Dec 15, 2018 |
Digital audiobook performed by Sarita Choudhury.

The novel follows the Ganguli family over three decades, beginning when Ashoke and Ashima’s marriage is first arranged in Calcutta. They settle in Cambridge, Massachusetts where Ashoke is studying engineering, have two children, buy a house and live their lives: Indians with American children.

This is the type of literary fiction I adore. Lahiri writes with such eloquence and grace, letting the reader learn about this family much as she would do when meeting new acquaintances who become friends over decades. Their story tackles issues of the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, differences (and conflicts) between generations, and personal identity.

While their parents find a community of other Bengalis with which to associate and celebrate life’s milestones, their children – son Gogol and his younger sister Sonia – are clearly Americans. And yet, Gogol still struggles with identity. First there is his odd name, then there are the lunches his mother packs for him, and the holidays they celebrate (or do not). While his parents cling to the traditions of their upbringing, Gogol wants only to fit in – to have a Christmas tree, and eat peanut butter, hamburgers and French fries. On trips back to India to see family and friends, Gogol feels lost; he does not clearly understand or speak the language, is unfamiliar with the city, cannot fathom why his family stays with relative after relative rather than getting a hotel room or renting an apartment of their own for the duration. In some respects, he is an immigrant in both countries.

Towards the end of the novel Gogol reflects on his and his parents’ lives: He wonders how his parents had done it, leaving their respective families behind, seeing them so seldom, dwelling unconnected, in a perpetual state of expectation, of longing. … He had spent years maintaining distance from his origins; his parents, in bridging that distance as best they could.

And he comes to a sort of conclusion: These events have formed Gogol, shaped him, determined who he is. They were things for which it was impossible to prepare but which one spent a lifetime looking back at, trying to accept, interpret, comprehend. Things that should never have happened, that seemed out of place and wrong, these were what prevailed, what endured, in the end.

Sarita Choudhury does a marvelous job narrating the audiobook. She sets a good pace that still allows the reader to absorb the complexities of the writing. Still, I am glad that I also have a text copy. Lahiri’s writing is the kind that I want to pore over, to read and read again. ( )
1 vote BookConcierge | Nov 30, 2018 |
Very well written and a story that gets you emotionally involved. The last quarter of the book was not as good, but the final pages made up for it. ( )
  3njennn | Nov 25, 2018 |
This book relates the story of a young married couple who migrate from India to start a life in the United States. Their story tells how they must adapt to their new life while trying to hold on to their native customs.

When Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli arrive in America following their arranged marriage they must learns the ways of life in their new country. At first Ashima finds life difficult in the United States and it isn’t long before she is expecting a new baby. Naming the baby is difficult since as Indian tradition dictates they are waiting for word from her grandmother on names for their new arrival. When no letter comes they must give the baby a name.

So Ashoke names their new baby boy after the Russian writer Gogol in memory of a catastrophic event from his life. Gogul’s name comes to represent the stress created by trying to honor the traditions of the native Indian life while endeavoring to become Americanized. The name embarrasses Gogul throughout his lifetime. Unfortunately for Gogul, who is the namesake, accepting his given name is not his only woe. Events in his life continue to plague him with unhappiness as he tries to find his place in these two different worlds.

The themes of immigrants and their children, cultural assimilation, and the importance of family and friends all play a part in how the novel’s characters find happiness in their lives. And with the story Lahiri tells not only of the camaraderie felt by fellow immigrants but also of the loneliness of their experiences when living in a new country. ( )
  Rdglady | Nov 20, 2018 |
Very good book. Beautiful language and cultural experience. ( )
  KatelynSBolds | Nov 12, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 273 (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
First words
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.
For being a foreigner, Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy--a perpetual wait , a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts.
Until now it has not occurred to Gogol that names die over time, that they perish just as people do.
"Remember that you and I made this journey, that we went together to a place where there was nowhere left to go."
"Now I know why he went to Cleveland, " she tells people, refusing even in death, to utter her husband's name. "He was teaching me how to live alone."
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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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