I have been wanting to read something by Jhumpa Lahiri for ages but for some strange reason whenever I got the urge to read The Namesake another book would grab my attention and I’d put it off until the next time. Finally I’ve got an excuse to read it.
Gogol is born and bred in U.S. of first generation Indian emigrants. This already establishes the fact that Gogol (and eventually his sister Sonia) will experience a culture clash and eventually decide on whether to go along with U.S. culture or not abandon their Indian heritage.
Lahiri puts the main focus on Gogol and throughout the book he meets certain obstacles which challenge his predicament. Be it on changing his name (one important running theme of the whole book) or the three main relationships he embarks, the third one, with an indian girl in his same situation is the most crucial one here.
Beware the plot is not as simple as I make it. As with Anita Desai’s Village by the Sea, Lahiri also believes that despite the events that crop up in life, one has to accept them as they form part of own well being. Gogol throughout the 30 odd year span in the book learns a lot through his decisions.
I loved this book. Lahiri is an excellent writer and particularly excels when she is describing people falling in love. There are many passages of sheer beauty which I would stop and re-read every so often just to soak in the words.
Another factor was that I related to the book almost too much as I have lived in Canada and my parents were first generation emigrants. So the funny accents, Maltese food, strict traditions were part of my life. Then fourteen years later we returned to Malta and although I do know the mentality and fit in better, I can’t help feeling out of place now and then. I also had to go through some of the same rites of brimstone and fire Gogol goes through in the book.
Just one question to you readers out there – are Lahiri’s other books just as good as The Namesake?