Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Setting: Calcutta, Rhode Island, and Southern California. From approx 1943 to recent time
My Copy Came From: I purchased a used hardback copy at a local library book sale.
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Review: A beautifully written book with unlikeable characters. This would be a great discussion book!
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri was a tough book for me. I loved the writing and how it was so simple, yet said so much at the same time. But while I adored the writing, I really struggled with feeling any connection to the characters.
Only the present moment, lacking any perspective, eluded her grasp. It was like a blind spot, just over her shoulder. A hole in her vision. But the future was visible, unspooling incrementally.
She wanted to shut her eyes to it. She wished the days and months ahead of her would end. But the rest of her life continued to present itself, time ceaselessly proliferating. She was made to anticipate it against her will.
There was the anxiety that one day would not follow the next, combined with the certainty that it would.
I went into this book thinking it would be a story about two brothers, Subhash and Udayan. And it was, but just not the story I was expecting, as Udayan is killed very early on in the book.
Udayan’s wife, Gauri, ends up marrying Subhash after Udayan’s death, and Gauri has a baby, whom she names Bela. I could not connect to Gauri’s character at all. She was so selfish, and I was just shaking my head at many of the decisions she makes throughout the novel. But, even though I couldn’t connect with her character, she never failed to keep my interest and I never felt bored while reading The Lowland. Which is a great statement, as it’s hard for a book to keep me interested when I don’t feel any emotional investment in the characters!
Always at the end of a queue, in the shadow of others, she believed she was not significant enough to cast a shadow of her own.
Where I really liked The Lowland was with the way Lahiri wrote the settings of the novel. Taking us from Calcutta to Rhode Island, I felt like I was right there with the characters. And Lahiri did this without paragraphs and paragraphs of descriptive text about the locations. I really enjoyed the writing and hope to read more of her works at some point!
In this enormous new country, there seemed to be nowhere for the old to reside. There was nothing to link them; he was the sole link. Here life ceased to obstruct or assault him. Here was a place where humanity was not always pushing, rushing, running as if with a fire at its back.
I mentioned above that I think this would be a good discussion book, and that’s because these characters force you to have an opinion about them. You’ll either love the characters or despise them, but you will have an opinion about them and their decisions, which would make for interesting discussion.
Bottom Line: I didn’t feel any connection with these characters, but I loved the writing!