Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri

Moving from the hot, dusty streets of Calcutta to the icy rain of Cambridge, Massachusetts, newly married Ashima and Ashoke start a new life in 60s America. The story tells of their son's relationship with his name - a name that he was given because the letter from Ashima's grandmother got lost in the post and they couldn't leave the hospital without putting something on the birth certificate.

Their son, Gogol Ganguli goes through so many emotions in dealing with a name that in Bengali culture is a pet name. As a young boy he refuses to be called anything else, rejecting his 'good' name. During his teenage years, he is angered by it. It is neither American or Indian. Where does this leave him? How does he define himself? As he reinvents himself it is not until he is an adult that he fully appreciates the whole loving history behind his 'pet' name.

Published in 2004, it's not a new book, but I'm so glad I've read it. It is such a beautifully told story of family, love, and acceptance of a new life. Lahiri's details of American and Indian cultures is spot on and a joy to read. It flits to present and past stories of the characters lives; it is not confusing but rather explains further the actions of Gogol, his parents and the people in their lives.

I won't lament over the glorious details of this narrative, only because I won't do it much justice. It's the type of story that needs to be read. And, even if you've never experienced moving from one country to another, from one culture to another, you can appreciate the struggles and understand the acceptance.

A very highly recommended read!

1 comment:

  1. The best thing I like about the novel is that it captures the wavering mind that dictates progression in one's love life, career and aspirations. The vivid description of an encounter on a train in a realistic fashion, where one finds it conceivable is an example of the reality base the novel conforms to.