Leila's Reviews > The Lowland

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
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it was ok

Like her other books, this is beautifully written. Unfortunately, I really didn't like any of the characters, and the narrative was so bland and impersonal this might've easily been a non-fiction history of the factions of Indian politics in the last quarter of the 20th century. The story (if it can be called that) is ambiguous, the characters do not relate to each other in ways I recognize or that seem authentic- very unnatural, stilted and hard to believe. I guess what was most puzzling here for me reading this after having enjoyed her other work SO much was the lack of depth.
The story is this: 2 brothers grow up in India in the 60s; while they are very close they take very different paths. One becomes involved in a fringe communist protest group & one leaves India to pursue graduate school in the US. (OK that's what most of her books have in common) The political brother becomes more entangled in terrorist type protests and along the way marries the sister of one of his comrades. SPOILER They are together only a short time before he is killed by the Indian police after they discover that he participated in the murder of a police officer. When the brother in America returns to India for his funeral, he discovers that his parents are inhospitable to his brother's pregnant widow; so he nobly marries her and takes her to the US to have the child and raise it as his own. What follows is essentially 40 years of nothing...she has the baby but leaves when the child is 11 or 12 to finish her own studies and then become a professor. Both of the parents seem to waft through their lives with little or no attachment to any of the generally accepted social structures or norms- meaning that they work and that's it. There are no other characters no other complications, no conflicts at all. Their daughter grows up to become an itinerant migrant farm worker going from place to place picking fruit and living her own wackadoodle but boring life until she becomes pregnant by some man passing through her life (no attention or discussion or plot interest even here because he is treated as a sperm donor). Then she moves back with her 60 something year old father and that's about it.
Sorry, I love her other books, but this one is utterly uncompelling. Boring, bland, dry, artificial stilted characters whose experiences bear no relationship to real life, and the entire book has no resonance or depth. Almost insipid, but there isn't even enough going on to be that. Plain oatmeal I guess.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
October 29, 2013 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-14 of 14 (14 new)

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Kate Arcangeli I very much agree with your review. Such a disappointing read.

Leila I was looking forward to it a lot and there was such anticipatory buzz; I thought I was just not "getting" it, so I'm glad someone else found it underwhelming.

Janelle I'm not clear on how the like or dislike of characters in a book makes one like or dislike the actual book. Seems very juvenile.

Leila Janelle wrote: "I'm not clear on how the like or dislike of characters in a book makes one like or dislike the actual book. Seems very juvenile."
Well, disliking the characters doesnt necessarily mean I dislike a book (many in fact have reprehensible or annoying characters yet I still love the book); however in this case I didn't like the characters, the plot development/narrative, the dialogue, or much else. Sorry you find it juvenile; I was under the impression that stating one's opinion was at the very essence of a REVIEW.

message 5: by Anjal (last edited Jan 10, 2014 07:36AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Anjal Bahal Agree with you totally...It left me cold in the end. After 212 page I completely lost interest. Not even a single character that made an impression on my mind. I would rate 3 maybe..One extra as I thought Jhumpa did a good job in putting depth to every scene.

Leila She is an amazing writer & the skill she wields even in this book which I disliked is formidable. I just couldn't relate or understand the behavior of any of the main characters except maybe the American woman Subhash (?) has an affair with at the beginning of his studies in RI.

Cassie I think you hit the nail on the head...

Leila Cassie wrote: "I think you hit the nail on the head..."

So looked forward to this, so much fuss too!!

Kevin Leila, you could read it as a historical fiction. You are right in that, liking the plot and characters has a lot to do with liking the book since any story unfolds through the characters, dialogues and narration. It looks black and white, may be that's a brilliant attempt to bring the mood of nostalgic past in the late 60's and early early 70's, in the history of Calcutta, western India. Somewhere, I even feel like it's scripted for a Satyajeet Ray movie.

Leila You could; you are right that the impression it leaves is stark and flat--like a communist apartment block or municipal architecture from the 60s. Maybe she was flexing her muscles, but her other books/shorts were so vibrant and memorable that perhaps as a fan and reader this was so unlike them that it was disconcerting. I found myself asking "Why am I still reading this?" all the way through this book. Thanks though, I agree that she is brilliant and if that's what she set out to accomplish in the tone and feel, she certainly did!!!

message 11: by Jamie (new) - added it

Jamie I agree. I actually only read half and I just didn't like the characters at all. I abandoned it halfway :/

Leila None of them were too compelling. Weird though, not sure what happened with her.

Seerat Randhawa It's the first book by jhumpa that I am reading and it's a pain. I agree with every word of yours. Plus I hope people felt the unnecessary situations or incidents she describes that amount to nothing in describing a feeling, a character, a situation or the plot itself. It's almost like rambling. And it is unnecessarily drawn long.

Leila Seerat wrote: "It's the first book by jhumpa that I am reading and it's a pain. I agree with every word of yours. Plus I hope people felt the unnecessary situations or incidents she describes that amount to nothi..."
Please, you should read her earlier work, Im not sure what she was trying to do with this one, but it is utterly unlike anything else she's written. I would abandon it now, if you dont like it yet because it doesnt get better. ;)

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