28 January, 2014

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri [Suneeta, Highland Park Library]

Masterful”, “shimmering” and “splendid”  are the kinds of superlatives that have been showered upon this second novel of Pulitzer Prize winner, Jhumpa Lahiri.

The Lowlands,
which was shortlisted last year for the Man Booker Prize, is indeed a wonderful read. It draws you in slowly but surely and even though it moves at a langorous pace, the journey through the book seems to end almost too soon.

The story begins in the Indian city of Calcutta where we meet two young brothers, inseparable from each other. The older, Udyan grows up to be an activist and reactionary, and plunges into the politics of 1950s and 60s India. His life is cut short and he leaves behind a devastated family including a young, pregnant wife. Meanwhile, Subhash, the other brother, diligent where Udyan was adventurous, has moved to America to study. He visits India to pick up the pieces of his brother’s death and in a surprise turn, marries his widow, the fiercely intelligent Gauri - in a bid to rescue her and the child she is carrying from an isolated life.  
Once in America, Gauri begins to get restless and soon withdraws into a world of academia. One day she simply walks away from her home and family. Never quite having gotten over the death of Udyan and her love for him, the years pass; Gauri grows old tormented by guilt for having abandoned her daughter at a tender age; the daughter grows into a woman and learns the secret of her identity and Subhash who has protected her always, finds love again. Lahiri has given us an epic story written with empathy and poignancy, of the possible repercussions of life decisions, of family and  parenthood, love and loss, distance and separation, loyalty and betrayal.
5 stars and a must-read from me.

Title: The Lowland
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
ISBN: 9780307265746
Published: 2013
Publisher: Knopf

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