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What do you think of Gauri's character?

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Priya Ambokar Share your views on Gauri's character.


Michelle I didn't like her or have any sympathy for her when she went to Rhode Island and saw Bela for the first time in years. I couldn't understand her ability to leave her daughter behind when she went to California. The letter she received from Bela with the picture drawn by her granddaughter demonstrated compassion from Bela that I found remarkable and wholly undeserved.


Narendra Sodha I wanted more explanation from Gauri for her actions after reaching Rhode Island... Abandoning Bela wasn't explained so by end of the book I didn't have any sympathy for her..


Priya Ambokar Sometimes, i feel we are so accustomed to certain type of mother-daughter relation or feelings, that we try to dismiss other kind of feelings that can exist.
I also cant understand what went through her mind when she decided to abandon her daughter. I could understand why she abandon her second husband, but daughter.


message 5: by Gopakumar (last edited Nov 26, 2013 10:36PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gopakumar Nair While reading the book, I was wondering what kind of a lady is she! How could one be so much selfish and ungrateful! But after turning over the last page followed by an analysis, I confess that I could not help feeling sympathy towards her. I believe if she had opted to lead a role of a loving wife and a perfect mother after landing in US, it would be something quite unnatural and hard to accept. Just look at her past which moulded her character! A lonely girl with an insecure childhood, brought up by grandparents, deprived of parent’s love and care. Her only anchor was her brother...Even the affair with Udayan was not at all a romantic relationship for her …she just wanted a change…That is what she longed for throughout her life. She was not mentally prepared or really wanted an ideal family life…The main reason that she got attracted to Udayan is her quest for books and studies and she found a match in him. It was never in her dreams to be an ideal housewife or a loving mother. Of course, Udayan loved her but she was isolated in his house as she could not win his parent’s hearts, failing miserably to get accepted as the daughter in law of their dreams...and then to be an eyewitness to that tragedy. Life was never smooth for her but filled with melancholy. Her only solace was books and pursuit of knowledge. Can we blame her for opting a career oriented life?
Can we believe that Subhash really loved her ? I don’t think that Subhash loved her with his heart. He wanted to help her because of his guilty feeling towards Udayan , but tried to love or tried to believe that he loved her. One should not expect Gauri should reciprocate just because he helped her to get away from Culcutta and exposed her to a new world. She might have believed that whatever Subhash has done was not entirely for her but to get out of the feeling that he is haunted by Udayan’s soul.


Tracey I think letting us wait until the end of the book for Gauri's story made us align with Bela's feelings. It helped me to understand Bela's anger more because I didn't get her until the end.


Leila Like all the characters in this story, Gauri was exceptionally flat & one dimensional. Her little lesbian fling at the end was maybe meant to show that she could feel rejection or whatever; and I never had a problem with her leaving her child. I think many people at least fantasize about walking away from everything. That is Gauri's theme- her unconventional family left when she marries, India left when she goes to US, daughter left when she cant take it anymore...The characters in story fail to even make you care enough to truly dislike them.


Leila i think you could say all the characters were stiff & emotionless...even the grieving parents, even the communist brother.


Andrea In the last pages of the book, we learn about Gauri's past with with her husband. We learn that she played a vital role in the death of an innocent man, that her husband was not forthcoming with her and that had her husband lived, maybe they wouldn't have chosen to have a family. Compound that with Gauri's move from a traditional family setting in her own country to the West where the roles of women​ were changing. She gave birth in an unknown place, married to a stranger, without friends, family or a support network that new families need. Perhaps she suffered post-partum depression and never bonded with Bela.
Like Priya suggests, we are used to traditional mother-daughter relationships. So this perspective made me think. No, Guari's exact motivations were never explained, but Bela explains her exact reasons for not settling down and committing to one partner. Maybe Guari's reasons were similar.​


Susan I believe Gauri loved Udayan and expected a forward-thinking, liberated married lifestyle. She was crushed by his decision to return to a traditional lifestyle of living with his parents who objected to their marriage in the first place. Then, without consulting her, Udayan acted like an old-fashioned husband would do, and took part in dangerous political underground activities, and then, again without consulting her, he involved her in these subversive activities that resulted in the death of a man who seemed to be a good person. Udayan wanted to deny Gauri a family because of his negative world view, and ironically left Gauri pregnant and alone when his activities cause his own death. In other words, she was betrayed by the love of her life, and put in the untenable situation of her only recourse being to accept a marriage of convenience with his brother in a foreign country. Personally, I would have said, GD it, I've had enough crap in my life, I'm going to find love and fulfillment somehow. But, I think Gauri was too crushed by her past to create a life that included human attachment.


message 11: by Juni (new) - rated it 5 stars

Juni Even though I am not a mother I was saddened by the effect Gauri's abrupt leaving had on Bela, who in my opinion would have been the perfect daughter. I guess one never knows whether they'll have maternal instincts once becoming pregnant, and there are certainly many cases of women never bonding with their children. Even though I feel a kinship with intellectuals, Gauri's character became increasingly distasteful and self centered to the extreme. Her idealized memory of Udayan is typical of a young girl's first love which haunted her for too many years. Bottom line she just hated being consumed by taking care of a child, but leaving without notice was the most hurtful act ever.


message 12: by Susan (last edited Dec 22, 2013 09:24AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Susan Juni wrote: "Even though I am not a mother I was saddened by the effect Gauri's abrupt leaving had on Bela, who in my opinion would have been the perfect daughter. I guess one never knows whether they'll have m..."

My take on Gauri was not that she idealized her marriage to Udayah, but that she loved Udayan and sacrificed her family to be with him, and he betrayed her by putting his dedication to a cause above his love for her, his involving her in an innocent man's death, and for telling her he did not want children, and yet dying and leaving her pregnant, alone and unloved with his disapproving parents. I think he tore the heart out of her and she could not recover enough to love
Subhash and Bela, even though they were deserving of her love. This trauma does not excuse her actions, IMO, but does throw light on why she was able to abandon her family.


message 13: by Juni (new) - rated it 5 stars

Juni I completely agree with Susan, well said!


message 14: by Juni (new) - rated it 5 stars

Juni Priya wrote: "Sometimes, i feel we are so accustomed to certain type of mother-daughter relation or feelings, that we try to dismiss other kind of feelings that can exist.
I also cant understand what went throu..."


I think Gauri was first and foremost an intellectual, going against the standard norm for Indian girls. Her love for Udayan was based on a common goal and like interests, and remember that she never wanted children. Finding herself pregnant doesn't always bring out maternal instincts, and even after Bela was born, and trying for 5 years to be a stay at home mom, it just wasn't in her nature and having a child was stifling, so she left ~~ to breathe! Of course the regrets came many years later, but the damage was done.


Cindy I think leaving Bela was a self punishment for participating in the death of an innocent man with a child...I also could never have left my children but I also know until I have walked in someone else's shoes...one never really knows what pushes someone...age...naive...cultural pressures...money...freedom... to something most of us would consider unnatural...but that being said I know from personal experience not all mother's really love their children especially in the time frame this novel took place....


message 16: by Juni (new) - rated it 5 stars

Juni In the movie The Hours Julianne Moore's character, a housewife in the 1950s, just took off one day and never saw her family again. Just giving birth never guarantees a tie, or love, or bonding. In Gauri's case, she was a mind person, not a 'heart' person (except for her loving Udayan)and obviously felt more allegiance to her freedom than to her own flesh and blood.


Cindy I agree with Juni that giving birth is not a guarantee and then I wonder did she really even know Udayan? I think not completely...she had her idea of who he was but did not know the whole man...and after someone dies it is interesting how their faults melt away....true deep love takes time and experience to ripen...


message 18: by Camille (new)

Camille I don't understand how any of the reviews here, or in newspapers etc. can overlook how traumatized Gauri was. All of the characters who witness the horror of Udayan being gunned down are basically frozen in that moment, while the rest of the world moves and evolves and erases the event, and they're left behind. Trauma can shatter the ability to experience emotion and connect to others... Doesn't Gauri deserve empathy for that?


Michelle Camille wrote: "I don't understand how any of the reviews here, or in newspapers etc. can overlook how traumatized Gauri was. All of the characters who witness the horror of Udayan being gunned down are basically ..."

Yes she does...but what about her responsibility to her daughter?? What about her role in traumatizing Bela, who was clearly traumatized by her mother deserting her.

Most of us have experienced some sort of discord if not downright trauma and I don't believe that is relieves us of our basic responsibilities to the children we bring into this world. I realize that she didn't necessarily want to have a child, but once she had Bela I think she had the basic obligation to do what she could to raise her. Her desertion was the supreme act of selfishness.


message 20: by Juni (new) - rated it 5 stars

Juni Camille wrote: "I don't understand how any of the reviews here, or in newspapers etc. can overlook how traumatized Gauri was. All of the characters who witness the horror of Udayan being gunned down are basically ..."

As much as Gauri loved Udayan, I think her pregnancy was unexpected and most likely unwanted; and Udayan being gunned down was numbing but actually a relief in the sense of it giving her a way out of her cold and unwelcoming in-laws. Young love is idealistic, smitten, and despite its intensity can also be fleeting. I still think that Gauri is primarily a mind person, ruled by intellect not by passions or emotions.


Sharyl Gopakumar wrote: "While reading the book, I was wondering what kind of a lady is she! How could one be so much selfish and ungrateful! But after turning over the last page followed by an analysis, I confess that I ..."

I agree, Gopakumar--she's a complex character, and it seems to me that she never really finds any happiness. In the beginning, I did think her ungrateful, too, but then had to question myself: am I being, perhaps, a bit sexist? Leaving Bela the way she did was very cold, but then, her parents had fobbed her off, too, as you've pointed out. In the end, even though I couldn't like her, I was sorry for her.


Jenny Dunning Michelle wrote: "I didn't like her or have any sympathy for her when she went to Rhode Island and saw Bela for the first time in years. I couldn't understand her ability to leave her daughter behind when she went ..."

I'm on the fence here. I want to believe that the trauma she endured, being part of her first husband's terrorist plot, on which the novel's resolution turns, grounded her inability to bond with her daughter. But I'm not sure. I read this novel in close proximity to Alice McDermott's , which also turns on the revelation of a secret the novel left unanswered until the end (a plot structure I admire); I think was more satisfying. But is a close second.


Redwan Orittro Not one of the top 100 Literary Characters I have read, but it seems to me that Gauri relived the day when Udayan as murdered every day of her life, for as long as she lived.

I find the character very conflicting, she loved Udayan all her life and led a life of semi-celibacy (since she did have physical relationships-which is unusual in subcontinental women, since they tend to be emotionally inclined), and yet her reluctance to be Bela mother and the way she abandoned Subash and Bela was outrageous. I felt a part of myself dying when she did it,and yet I couldn't bring myself to feel bad for Gauri,when at the end, it said how she lived all alone by herself.

No one deserves to spend their lives this way,and yet she didn't even try to get in touch with Bela and Subash.

A very mysterious character indeed


Jenny Dunning I read her as having been traumatized by Subash's betrayal, by his having implicated her in the murder of an innocent man (the policeman), more than by Subash's murder--because even then she's emotionally cut-off, I think.

I don't know if I felt sorry for her either, though. She was hard to like even if by the end I thought I understood her.


Redwan Orittro Udayan you mean??

Yes I do believe I agree to some extent to you what you said, but Bela was her daughter as well....Bela is half of Udayan and Gauri.

But I guess trauma of being betrayed got in the way of her being a mother.


Jenny Dunning Oh I mixed up the brothers. Sorry. I read it several months ago. Meant Udayan, not Subhash.


Redwan Orittro Not a problem :)


Suzanne Gopakumar wrote: "While reading the book, I was wondering what kind of a lady is she! How could one be so much selfish and ungrateful! But after turning over the last page followed by an analysis, I confess that I ..."

Good points!


Alexandra Gauri was such a difficult character. At times I felt bad for her. I felt like she felt both betrayed by Udayan and idealized him at the same time. Udayan did not think of her future, just as she did not think of Bela's future. Both were selfish. He abandoned her so she abandoned his child.
As a mother I despised her for leaving Bela, but understood that she was suffocated by motherhood itself, and I felt like she never really wanted to be a mother in the first place. She resented Bela.
She was a difficult character and I was glad that Bela really gave it to her in the end. And that it came full circle, with Bela allowing her to see her child.


Sarah Juni wrote: "In the movie The Hours Julianne Moore's character, a housewife in the 1950s, just took off one day and never saw her family again. Just giving birth never guarantees a tie, or love, or bonding. I..."

When I finished reading Lowlands, everytime I tried to analyse Gauri I had to think of Julianne Moore in The Hours as well.


Gopakumar Nair Sharyl wrote: "Gopakumar wrote: "While reading the book, I was wondering what kind of a lady is she! How could one be so much selfish and ungrateful! But after turning over the last page followed by an analysis,..."

Thank you Sharyl..


Gopakumar Nair Suzanne wrote: "Gopakumar wrote: "While reading the book, I was wondering what kind of a lady is she! How could one be so much selfish and ungrateful! But after turning over the last page followed by an analysis,..."

Thank you Suzanne..


Carly Svamvour That one disappointed me - I was already to be there for her - felt sorry for her, and all that. Until I realized what a selfish piece of work she was.

She didn't seem to feel a thing, did she?

But I guess Lahiri did her work ... if an author can get you to feel that strongly about a character, then she took ya there, no doubt about it.

No - did not like her at all.


Nelson Leaving Bela was not right. How a mother can do that?


message 35: by Asha (new) - rated it 3 stars

Asha KRISHNA oh dear, I was excited to get this chance to talk about Gauri in a good way. But it seems I am outnumbered. I liked the character. I loved the shades that Lahiri has painted on her and though I did not approve of it (having young children of my own, abandonment of kids is something close to heart) I somehow felt that Lahiri jusfified the character in the end when she lifts the veil over Udayan's death and Gauri's role in it.

Somehow it explained a lot of things to me. It must have been traumatic to have been part of the movement without consciously realising it and somewhere down the line it altered her personality in a devastating way. That is how I look at it.

I approached the book without the hype and amid negative reviews. I suppose that made the difference.


message 36: by Kate (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kate Swann I've just finished the book, and I was disappointed in Gauri and Lahiri. I love her writing style - she paints with her pen (keyboard, whatever), but Gauri's motives just didn't add up for me. Like a few of you have said, it's hard when you're a Mum to understand why she would leave like that, even with the explanation at the end.

I've just read Juni's and Sarah's comments too about The Hours - I hadn't made the comparison, but you're right.

But as Carly said, I'm still thinking about it, so clearly it's powerful stuff.


message 37: by J (last edited Jun 03, 2014 12:05PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

J I think Gauri's character is totally believable.

We don't know Gauri's full story until the end of the book. My own interpretation is that Gauri genuinely loved Udayan during their courtship and during the early phase of their marriage. I think she was severely hurt emotionally when she realized that he had planned the murder of the policeman and implicated her in it as well. At the end, the novel says when he looked into Gauri's face just before his execution, he saw disillusionment. And shortly before his death,before Gauri knows that the policeman has been murdered, he asks Gauri if she would mind not having children. He says that because of something he did, he doesn't think he should be a father.

So, my interpretation is that part of the reason Gauri can't love Bela as a mother should is because she is utterly destroyed by Udayan's betrayal of her trust by involving her in a murder and by her own feelings of guilt about participating in the murder. Her love for Udayan is diminished, though not entirely extinguished. Moreover, she knows that he had decided they shouldn't have children. So, when she discovers she is pregnant with Bela, she not only is no longer passionately in love with the child's father, she also knows that Udayan himself did not want a child. Add on to this the fact that his parents treat her badly after his death to try to force her out of their home. Who wouldn't be a basket case in this situation?

While we are reading the novel, we see Udayan's execution as unfair. However, at the end, we realize that while the manner in which it was carried out was brutal, Udayan was guilty of murder and after he helped kill a policeman, it was understandable that the police wanted vengeance. If tried, Udayan would probably have been convicted. In any event, he's guilty.

In my opinion, Gauri accepts Subash's offer of marriage to save her own skin. She knows she is implicated in the movement by the messages she left upon his instruction and certainly was involved in the murder. If the police become aware that she gave a false name while tutoring the children and spied on the policeman, how could she ever convince anyone of her innocence?

It's noteworthy that she never explains her role in the plot to Subash. She doesn't tell him the whole truth about Udayan's death. So, right from the outset of their relationship it's based on a lie. He thinks she is acting in part out of a desire to protect Udayan's child. She isn't.

Bela later comments on the sadness that emanated from her mother and which she felt as a child. Gauri has abandoned both Bela and Subash emotionally long before she leaves.
Both Bela and Subash--because he look so much like Udayan--are visual reminders of what she has lost.

I thought as the story went on --maybe in part because she no longer had to look at Bela and Subash every day--that Gauri became reconciled to what Udayan had done and feels once more the intensity of their early love.

Her change in attitude is accelerated when she is questioned about the Naxalite movement. Gauri freaks out when she's asked to help with research. Even all those years later, talking about the movement reminds her of Udayan's betrayal and also revives her fear that her role in the murder will be discovered. She even denies Udayan's very existence, by saying that her husband was already in the US when it happened.

But by searching the internet, she becomes aware that nobody is still interested in either Udayan or the policeman he murdered. She has nothing to fear. It is then she begins dreaming of Udayan as her young lover.

Having resolved her mixed feelings about Udayan, she is ready to face Subash. She WANTS to see him so she can see what Udayan would look like if he had lived.

At the end of the book, after learning of her disillusionment, our last image is of young, passionate love.


message 38: by Kate (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kate Swann J wrote: "I think Gauri's character is totally believable.

We don't know Gauri's full story until the end of the book. My own interpretation is that Gauri genuinely loved Udayan during their courtship and d..."


Great take on the book, J. Loved your interpretation


message 39: by Sayan (last edited Jun 08, 2014 11:45AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sayan Kundu Well Gauri is someone a reader would wish his worst enemy posses as his wife.... on the other hand i think one can easily misinterpret the character of gauri but if you think carefully it was quite obvious for gauri to walk out of her marriage with subash, after all it was in abstract sense a forced one... it was done to satisfy the situation and serve both their needs... it was subash who initiated it to save gauri from the taunting rules a widow faces in india. one might think gauri was cruel for leaving subash and in a way hurting his emotional values but on the better part of things she left behind Bela with subash. Moreover by ending the marriage with subash she made things simpler and narrowed it down to acceptance.Because i think it's better to accept the bitter truth than to dwell on the illusory happiness.


Laura Lyn J wrote: "I think Gauri's character is totally believable.

We don't know Gauri's full story until the end of the book. My own interpretation is that Gauri genuinely loved Udayan during their courtship and d..."


Very well said. Thank you for sharing this analysis!


Mayank Kashyap Gauri was a selfish women, who used Subhash and back stabbed him, ran away from her responsibilities. She failed as a mother and wife. But for Udayan she was really honest...


message 42: by A (new) - added it

A The first real-life person who came to my mind with regard to Gauri was Gayatri Spivak. Is it just me?


Andrea Collins Camille wrote: "I don't understand how any of the reviews here, or in newspapers etc. can overlook how traumatized Gauri was. All of the characters who witness the horror of Udayan being gunned down are basically ..."

I agree. And the fact that he had made her complicit in the death of the policeman meant that something inside her died,that she could never trust/love another human being - not even her own daughter


Steve J wrote: "I think Gauri's character is totally believable.

We don't know Gauri's full story until the end of the book. My own interpretation is that Gauri genuinely loved Udayan during their courtship and d..."


Andrea wrote: "Camille wrote: "I don't understand how any of the reviews here, or in newspapers etc. can overlook how traumatized Gauri was. All of the characters who witness the horror of Udayan being gunned dow..."

J wrote: "I think Gauri's character is totally believable.

We don't know Gauri's full story until the end of the book. My own interpretation is that Gauri genuinely loved Udayan during their courtship and d..."



On the whole I agree with you. Gauri was betrayed by Udayan. And poor Udayan. He is guilty of the murder of the policeman by extension. I guess the Indian extension of the felony-murder rule. He didn't stab the man himself but realized that his life was over. As if the bubble of revolutionary zeal had been popped by the reality of the man's blood and his life flowing out of him, and Udayan realized at that point there was no redemption possible for him.
I was intrigued by Gauri's passion for philosophy. I wish I knew more about the branch of German philosophy she specialized in. My impression of Philosophy generally is that it is an intellectual quest for "truth." Since she was lied to in this basic way she wants to find out why. Also, a subtext, is the importance of emotion in our lives. It rules, doesn't it. Trumps the intellect every time and philosophy or other attempts to get at this labyrinthine aspect of our natures by logical investigation really doesn't help all that much.
I loved this novel. I liked your comment.


Andrea Collins Thank you Steve!


Eilagh Amit wrote: "This character Gauri selfish and unfaithful.Overall Gauri character is stiff, emotionless."

So totally agree - she did try, I think when she first arrived in U.S. but somehow lost gratitude and love.


Eilagh Leila wrote: "i think you could say all the characters were stiff & emotionless...even the grieving parents, even the communist brother."

perhaps it is up to the reader to supply the emotion? Is the reader expected to empathize or at least understand how the events would have influenced peoples' lives? The events were pretty monumental?


message 48: by Kat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kat Enns I read this knowing that as an intellectual and an academic, Gauri had more of a connection to her field than to anything else, after she lost the love of her life, so she kept distancing herself, literally, until she finally escaped. I dont sympathise with her but I understand why she was completely consumed by her passion for her field. If she had been a man she might have been more accomodated. The point that Subhash was gone early and Bela was her resposibility all day long is just one of the examples of how woman are subjugated when it comes to child rearing. The Indian way of family rearing of children all within one household, this would clearly have been a better option, except of course that the ambition Gauri had to better herself and follow her own intellectual path conflicted with any relationship with her child, in her view. I have seen this happen with female PhD candidates with children, they resent the kids clear and simple, and many do not have kids during that period of their lives. They wait and sometimes never do. I know many female PhDs in teaching positions in Universitites and many of them or childless. The author masterfully lays out all of the feminist scenario without any guidance to the reader and we are all led to dispise this woman for her coldness and her selfishness. Its possible to resent a child who comes along to remind you of the man you can never have or see again. And gets in the way of your studies. Of the life you want for yourself. Men can chose what ever life they want, women with children not so much. Its very interesting how Lahiri tranforms the real parently capability to Subhash, and makes him the inheritor of family love. He lives surrounded in it. Guari is punished for failing at it. As readers we were being played exquisitely. That stiff emotionlessness is anger and grief. Unless you have experienced a loss like this in your immediate family it might be hard to understand it. What a great writer


Pankhudi I disliked her or rather hated her. She was not chasing her dreams rather she was running away from her own self. She leaving lowland and then leaving Subhabsh and Bela on Rhode island shows this.


message 50: by Poongothai (last edited Sep 25, 2014 02:13AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Poongothai I did not like her at all.
She was very shelfish and unemotional.


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