I read The Lowland in a day, but it was a duty to finish it, not a pleasure.
Legions of Lahiri’s fans will be very cross with me, but I found this bookI read The Lowland in a day, but it was a duty to finish it, not a pleasure.
Legions of Lahiri’s fans will be very cross with me, but I found this book dreary, leaden and ultimately implausible. It’s just another mournful relationship novel, dipped into Bengali culture just long enough to leave a faded impression of exoticism like tie-dying that’s been washed too much.
The plot is feeble. Born in Calcutta into a middle-class household in the 1960s brothers Subhash and Udayan are very close, but *surprise, surprise!* have different personalities. Udayan is the lively risk-taker; Subhash is more restrained. Yes, he feels a bit inadequate. No, you don’t get to know what Udayan feels, except that he is outraged by the inequities of Indian life.
Both boys work hard, and do well at school and university. Subhash goes off to do post-graduate work in America, and Udayan joins a Maoist terrorist group called the Naxalites.
I don’t know what possessed me to borrow this book from the library! If I wanted to read about natural disasters all I had to do was read the news: thI don’t know what possessed me to borrow this book from the library! If I wanted to read about natural disasters all I had to do was read the news: this is a week when Super Typhoon Hagupit displaced thousands of people in a mass evacuation and Brisbane is cleaning up after a super cell storm caused a damage bill of over $800 million, reviving memories of the 2011 floods when the Brisbane River burst its banks. Given that there are dozens of major cities around the world that are built on rivers, there have been countless major flood events for one reason or another, and historians could no doubt flood the market with stories about them all.
But tourists love Paris, and so a book about their flood in 1910 was bound to be of interest. And so Paris Under Water appears to be, if you check the uncritical GoodReads ratings. But truth be told this is a rather dull book. It’s well-researched (lots of footnotes &c) but badly written, with repetitive assertions and inadequate analysis. Once the initial fascination with the idea of Paris under water lapses, the book becomes a bit of a slog.
I’ve been an admirer of Margaret Forster for a long time, but it’s been a while since I read one of her books. I’ve read Have the Men Had Enough? (198I’ve been an admirer of Margaret Forster for a long time, but it’s been a while since I read one of her books. I’ve read Have the Men Had Enough? (1989); The Battle for Christobel (1991); her biography of Daphne du Maurier (1993); The Memory Box (1999); Lady’s Maid (2003); and of course Georgy Girl (1965), but I read all of these long before I started this blog. So when I saw Mothers’ Boys as an audio book at the library, it seemed like an ideal choice for the daily commute.
The novel was, in parts, rather confronting, but it was riveting. Like many of Forster’s novels it’s framed around the theme of family breakdown and loss, and the unexpected strength that women discover in themselves when life forces them into difficult situations. And the situation in which these mother’s find themselves, though regrettably commonplace enough, is difficult indeed.
Earlier this year I read an impressive debut novel called The First Week by Margaret Merrilees, which was the story of a woman whose quiet life was shattered by her adult son who commits an incomprehensible crime. (See my review). In Mothers’ Boys, Forster explores a similar theme from the point-of-view of both the mothers – Sheila Armstrong, whose grandson Joe was the one involved in the assault, and Harriet Kennedy, whose fifteen-year-old son Joe was his victim.
The DSC South Asian literature prize shortlist was announced the other day, and there are some interesting titles to explore: •The Mirror of Beauty byThe DSC South Asian literature prize shortlist was announced the other day, and there are some interesting titles to explore: •The Mirror of Beauty by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi •Noontide Toll by Romesh Gunesekera •The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri •The Scatter Here Is Too Great by Bilal Tanweer •A God in Every Stone, by Kamila Shamsie.
Stu from Winston’s Dad and I have formed a Shadow Jury and are aiming to read these five novels and choose the best of them before the official announcement in January. (This will be more of a challenge than you might think because The Mirror of Beauty is 900+ pages.)
I’d had reservations about Shamsie’s previous novel Burnt Shadows but A God in Every Stone is a much more coherent novel. Set in Britain, Egypt, the Western Front in WW1 and Pakistan, it’s a story of divided loyalties and an exploration of patriotism. While not a page-turner, it has a compelling plot and engaging characterisation and it covers a wide sweep of history from a post-colonial and feminist perspective.
Hmm. I found these stories mildly interesting to listen to on the daily commute, but I don't understand why they became a publishing sensation. HolmesHmm. I found these stories mildly interesting to listen to on the daily commute, but I don't understand why they became a publishing sensation. Holmes is a pompous pain in the proverbial, and there is a wearisome sameness about the plotting, characterisation and structure of the stories. ...more