Tuesday, 9 April 2013

''The Namesake''- Book review

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Published: 2003
Number of pages: 291

Genres: Novel

Rating: 3 out of 5


Jhumpa Lahiri's ''The Namesake'' deals with the lives of Indian immigrants to America and their children- providing a portrait of the struggles of each generation to adjust with the culture of the other. I really enjoyed reading it. I won't say it was a great read. But it was an emotional, almost overwhelming book, that I'd recommend to people who like emotional stories dealing with the harsh realities of life.

The story deals with Ashoke and Ashima, an Indian couple, who had an arranged marriage, who have moved to America. Starting in the late 1960s, the novel starts with Ashima giving birth to a son. Near the very beginning of the novel, we are informed that several years ago, Ashoke had faced a railway accident, the train where he was in was crashed into pieces. Many passengers had died, and Ashoke was also near death, but in his hand he had page from a book by Nikolai Gogol, which caused the rescuers to understand that he was still alive and thus, his life was saved.

There is a confusion about the child's name. According to the family's customs, the baby will be named by Ashima's grandmother, who had named all of her great-grandchildren. But, however, the letter never arrives, and the great-grandmother becomes severely sick, not remembering anything. So, the child goes by the pet name ''Gogol'', kept in honor of Nikolai Gogol, whose book had saved Ashoke's life.

When Gogol is to start school, his parents decide to register the name ''Nikhil'' as the official name of Gogol, but Gogol never responds when he is called Nikhil; he cannot move away from the name Gogol. His parents are compelled to keep his name Gogol. As a little boy the name doesn't bother him. But as he grows up, the rather unusual name starts disturbing, and, at one stage, when he is in his late teens, he finally changes his name to Nikhil.

He starts living his life in his own way, but his names always haunt him. To some, he will always remain Gogol. At the same time, he comes across the realities of life, of harshness, loneliness, love, heartbreaks...

First of all, the book gives us quite a vivid picture about Indian American family life. The immigrant parents can never fully adjust themselves to the culture and traditions of the new country. To them, their home always remains India. The children, on the other hand, growing up with the culture of America, can never think of India as their home. To them, India is only a place from where their parents had come; to them, the place bears little importance, bringing conflict between the generation. None of the generations can be blamed.

The novel also gives a vivid picture of the realities of life. Gogol goes through a lot of troubles, a lot of agonies and heartbreaks in his life, teaching him the realities. Love, betrayal, heartbreak, sadness, deaths of close people- he faces everything in his life.

Filled with emotional content, this is a likeable novel, but not certainly a book to fall in love with. I enjoyed reading it; it was engrossing and well-written, vivid and quite powerful.

3 out of 5

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