Title: The Namesake
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Pub Date: 2003
No. Of pages: 291
Where I got it: Reposed subscription box
Time to read: 8 days
One sentence review: Interesting insight into life as an American born Indian
Who’d enjoy it: Anyone who is interested in cross-cultural differences
The book begins with Ashima Ganguli, is pregnant. She has not long been married to Ashoke as a result of an arranged marriage. Following that marriage, they move to Boston, away from their family in Calcutta, India.
Their son, Gogol, named after Ashoke’s favourite author, but also completely by accident is the main focus of this book. The story takes us through Gogol’s life from being a toddler, right through to his mid thirties.
Much of the focus of the story is around Gogol’s feelings to his unusual name and how he tries to change his name and find his identity as he comes of age.
How did I find it?
I’m finding this one difficult to put into words. I wasn’t even sure how to rate it and eventually opted for straight down the middle.
It’s probably easier to write what I didn’t like about this book. Too long chapters; in excess of 24 pages in many chapters. No real clarity of where the book was going. Description to the point that it felt like it was trying to pad the book out. It slowed it down. There was no real pace to the story.
The first half of the book took me six days to read. But the second half had me gripped and I flew through it.
For the most part, Gogol is a likeable character and understanding his struggles as an American born Indian was fascinating. It was insightful and eye opening and the book is clearly written with empathy towards Gogol. You get the feeling that in spite of his awkwardness, aloofness and almost indifference to his parents, that he’s a good guy. It’s clear that his attitude towards his parents is due to an internal struggle with his heritage but also where he was brought up. He clearly identifies more as American, but is born to a Mother who never really saw America as home. The development of his relationship with his family as he gets older is quite a heartwarming read though.
Much like Gogol’s early attitude towards his parents, I feel somewhat indifferent towards this book. I enjoyed Gogol’s story and understanding what life must be when balancing a heritage that is not native to the country of residence, but the lack of pace and direction of the story left me feeling like that there was no point, or I entirely missed it.
Having read around on GoodReads, I’ve found out that Lahiri has written short stories. The general consensus seems to be that she is better suited to shorter stories. I’m tempted to go and read some of them, because she is undoubtedly a beautiful author.