The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri is my first novel from the author. I have seen "Namesake" and read her short story collection "Unaccustomed Earth"
The Lowland, nominated for Man Booker Prize, has a Naxalite background, but the story has little to do with that. Basically, this story is about two brothers Subhash and Udayan, so close yet so far. It's about a woman, rather strange woman Gauri, failed by her husband Udayan, who gets involved in naxalite activities and gets killed eventually. It's about family and delicate relationships.
Subhash, studying in America, returns to find Gauri, pregnant, and coldly ignored by their parents. He marries her, without any expectation, just to take her away from that environment.
In America, Gauri gives birth to a daughter, Bela, but strangely is unable to connect with her just the way she is unable to connect with her new husband, despite his care and efforts. But, Subhash loves Bela, who doesn't know about the existence of Udayan (so far), like his own daughter.
After all the virtues and emotional efforts, what Subhash is left with, eventually? What is the destination of this relationship? You'll have to, and you should read this beautiful story.
The writing is beautiful, narration is flowing (I don't have to mention though). I really liked the writing style. It's different. Reading this book was like hearing an interesting story from a skilful storyteller.
Gauri is a strange character. A recluse, eccentrically, who doesn't care about anything, cannot bond with anyone. I loved Bela! Thoughtful and understanding as a child. Strong as a woman.
I have known the Bengali culture very closely and I loved the way the author has kept the essence of Bengali culture intact. Those small, touching things, details that make the story and setting truly authentic.
I thought the story was going brilliant until 295th page, when the story goes adrift. Few insignificant things fill pages, but thankfully it picks up quickly. There are few incidents that should have been told earlier, come later, diminishing their importance. It didn't work for me.
There are few things that disturbed me that I wondered if this copy was unedited. There are no quotation marks for dialogues that makes the read a little confusing. Few portions of the book is written in present tense, unlike the whole book. I simply didn't get this.
Overall, for me (If I ignore the little disturbances) it was a beautiful read! I'd recommend this book to every book lover, especially those who like reading literary fiction.
I received this book from Random House India (And Random Reads, it's official blog) for an honest review.