The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

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My mind is strange. I picked up a book recently, a YA novel that I heard was gripping with great characters. I was in the mood for something engaging and fast-paced with a good female protagonist, something that I would probably read fairly quickly, so I gave it a shot. It took me weeks to get to 40%, and by then I was done. It was too slow-building and predictable.

So then, tossing the YA novel aside in annoyance, I picked The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri off my shelf. Lahiri is an author who is widely praised and loved, but I had never read one of her novels. I ordered The Lowland last winter in a good Barnes and Noble sale, and there it sat. The Lowland is essentially about two brothers, the setting bouncing between India and America, between the 1960’s and the 2000’s. It was the opposite of what I thought I was in the mood for – it involved politics, it was quiet, it was thoughtful. Definitely not the action-packed, fluffy reading experience I thought I wanted, but I was completely absorbed by it.

Apparently what I really wanted as fantastic writing, and Lahiri delivered. The book is mostly narrated by Subhash, the more cautious and slightly older brother. As they grow older Udayan delves further into revolutionary politics, and the once close brothers end up with a gulf between them that they cannot cross. It’s really hard not to give anything away here. I went into the book really blind, so everything that happened was a discovery of sorts. Some of the reviews I read online afterwards gave away the plot for basically the first quarter of the book – I think that’s a bit of a disservice to the reader. I will say that there is a prominent female character, Gauri, that I ended up liking a lot. Most readers may disagree with me, but I definitely connected with a piece of her, more than any other character.

Even if you think you’re not in the mood for something like The Lowland, you probably are. Lahiri has a magical way with words that will wrap you up and carry you along for the story she has to tell.

~Sarah

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7 comments

  1. I love this: “Even if you think you’re not in the mood for something like The Lowland, you probably are.” I think that’s really true about some writers and books. You think you know what you are getting but you don’t. Sometimes you need the quiet strength of an author like Lahiri. I just read her book In Other Words about her quest to learn how to speak and write Italian. She wrote an entire book in Italian and STILL she’s incredible.

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  2. Lahiri is a favorite, but I haven’t read this one yet… soon, hopefully. I highly recommend her short stories, too – Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth. Both are excellent. Her earlier novel, The Namesake, is also very good.

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  3. Lahiri is just sooooo goooood. I’ve read Interpreter of Maladies (one of my fave short story collections) and The Namesake. I realized just the other day that Unaccustomed Earth is hanging out in my Kindle app. Really need to get to that one.

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