It’s been five years since the publication of Jhumpa Lahiri’s last short story collection, Unaccustomed Earth, and 10 since the release of her only novel, The Namesake. Thus, it’s understandable that expectations for her second novel are high. The Lowland, an intricately plotted, melancholy family drama that plays out over half a century in India and America, will more than reward readers’ patience.
Most of the novel’s Indian action takes place in an enclave of Calcutta called Tollygunge. From the first scene, when adolescent brothers Subhash and Udayan Mitra steal onto the grounds of the exclusive Tolly Club, their sharply different personalities emerge. By the time they reach their mid-20s, in the late 1960s, the brothers, separated by only 15 months, are launched irrevocably on divergent paths. Udayan, the younger, joins a Marxist-Leninist political movement called the Naxalites, while Subhash moves to Rhode Island to attend graduate school.
When Udayan’s marriage to the alluring and intellectually restless Gauri ends abruptly, the young woman marries Subhash and returns with him to the United States. Though the novel periodically revisits India, both in real time and in memory, much of the drama thereafter focuses o[Fri Apr 18 16:52:44 2014] enhancedContent.pl: Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\enhancedContent.pl line 249. n the unremitting tension that surrounds Subhash and Gauri’s attempt to adapt both to a marriage neither ever intended and to life in a foreign land, even as they raise a daughter, Bela, amid the shadows of their past.
From her earliest short stories, Lahiri has distinguished herself as a crafter of elegant, gently understated prose, a quality that marks this novel as well. In this work, as in her previous ones, she also displays her mastery of pacing. Whether she’s describing a confrontation between Udayan and the Indian police, or an equally devastating emotional encounter between Gauri and her adult daughter, Lahiri has an unerring knack for meshing dialogue, penetrating glimpses into the consciousness of her characters and precisely observed detail to create scenes of powerful drama. That exquisite control occasionally leaves one wishing for more rather than wondering, as often is the case with lesser writers, why the author has lingered over a scene too long.
The Lowland has been longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize. It’s a deserving candidate, but in truth no prize is required to validate the achievement of a work whose beauty and pathos will reside in memory long after it has been read.Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.
Born 15 months apart in Calcutta, Subhash and Udayan Mitra nevertheless differ greatly: Udayan joins the insurgent Naxalite movement, while Subhash conducts scientific research in America. But when tragedy strikes, Subhash must return home. Love, responsibility, and idealism in a significant Sixties setting, with Pulitzer Prize winner Lahiri doing what she does best; a nine-city tour.[Page 56]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Pulitzer Prize winner Lahiri's (The Interpreter of Maladies) unparalleled ability to transform the smallest moments into whole lives pinnacles in this extraordinary story of two brothers--so close that one is "the other side" of the other--coming of age in the political tumult of 1960s India. They are separated as adults, with Subhash, the elder, choosing an academic career in the United States and the more daring Udayan remaining in Calcutta, committed to correcting the inequities of his country. Udayan's political participation will haunt four generations, from his parents, who renounce the future, to his wife and his brother, who attempt to protect it, to the daughter and granddaughter who will never know him. VERDICT Lahiri is remarkable, achieving multilayered meaning in an act as simple as "banging the edge of the lid three or four times with a spoon, to break the seal"; her second novel and fourth title is deservedly one of this year's most anticipated books. Banal words of praise simply won't do justice; perhaps what is needed is a three-word directive: just read it. [See Prepub Alert, 3/18/13.]--Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC[Page 87]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Lahiri's (The Namesake) haunting second novel crosses generations, oceans, and the chasms that despair creates within families. Subhash and Udayan are brothers, 15 months apart, born in Calcutta in the years just before Indian independence and the country's partition. As children, they are inseparable: Subhash is the elder, and the careful and reserved one; Udayan is more willful and wild. When Subhash moves to the U.S. for graduate school in the late 1960s, he has a hard time keeping track of Udayan's involvement in the increasingly violent Communist uprising taking place throughout West Bengal. The only person who will eventually be able to tell Subhash, if not quite explain, what happened to his brother is Gauri, Udayan's love-match wife, of whom the brothers' parents do not approve. Forced by circumstances, Gauri and Subhash form their own relationship, one both intimate and distant, which will determine much of the rest of their adult lives. Lahiri's skill is reflected not only in her restrained and lyric prose, but also in her moving forward chronological time while simultaneously unfolding memory, which does not fade in spite of the years. A formidable and beautiful book. 350,000-copy announced first printing. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME Entertainment. (Sept.)[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC