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The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
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's review
Dec 13, 08

bookshelves: fiction
Read in September, 2008

I came into this book figuring that I would like it, and I was not disappointed in the least. I took the book to work this week and spent my entire lunch hour on just one chapter, pouring over the exquisite descriptions of each scene exposited upon and the flow of the narration. I especially admire how Jhumpa, who covered decades in less than 300 pages, knew exactly which scenes to center on, and which to let roll by.

Not that this is overly important, but I found that the movie was more or less en tandem with the book, despite having a slightly narrower focus on Gogol's name issues as the main conflict. I suppose my one complaint with the book was giving Moushumi a chapter to narrate- not that I didn't like the deeper look into her character and motivations, but it broke the more natural flow of telling things from Ashima (or more likely) Gogol's persepctives. Ashoke's brief forays into the hot seat, though, didn't bother me, perhaps because his story in particular was so central to his family's collective narrative.

All in all, an excellent read for anyone interested in immigrant experiences and/or great literature. After I finished the book, I listened to an NPR interview with Jhumpa online where she admitted near the end that writing is an incredibly taxing and difficult task- and I can believe it, really, because how else could it be so good? :P Yet on the page, it is effortless, and it makes me feel- even though I have no direct experience with Indian life- that this culture is second nature to me. Brava.
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Famin Great review Rachel. This book is one of my favorites as well--not only for the writing, which I've always thought is very good; but also because it is one of the few books published that comes so close to my own story. Shouldn't be any big surprise since Jhumpa's parents are friends with friends of my own parents and we all lived that same experience of growing up Bengali-American in the '70s. I thought the movie was a pretty good interpretation of the book as well.

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