Saturday, August 22, 2015

Book review - The Lowland

A simple story. A few characters. Their growth over the years. This is what can sum up Jhumpa Lahiri's latest work. No surprise elements. Nothing really earth shattering. Ordinary people with some uncommon situations in their lives, some uncommon ways of reacting to those situations in their lives. This could be another summary.

Doesn't sound like much of a novel. But the way it grips your imagination is a proof of the sublimity of Lahiri's story-telling ability. The ability to weave stories about people around you, of someone who easily could have been you, is an art that this lady as mastered.

She takes you through the lanes of Calcutta to the marshes and beaches of Rhode Island with bits of California interspersed in between. Then back to Kolkata. All effortlessly. All as if you are actually present there all along. Powerful pictures painted by mere words. The details of a life uprooted from India and replanted in America. The feelings, the vantage, of a life begot in America, visiting India briefly. The nuances of oceanography, philosophy, the Naxalite movement of the '70s and even agriculture, all there for you to relish. Served within the story, intermixed as herbs in a savory delicacy.

With the same simplicity you get to meet and know Subhash, Udayan, their parents, Gauri, Bela, and Meghna - the Mitra family. Reading about their behavior, their individual traits and personalities, you get to understand them. In fact, you even begin to predict what they would think and do next. More often than not, they do end up doing your bidding.

In my teenage, which for some reason seems a lifetime ago, i would have panned the book for this same reason. Too predictable.

But now, i really appreciate it. Maybe now i am learning to understand the true value of human relationships, the true value of predictability. And savoring the joy of things turning out exactly the way you wanted them to be.

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