Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Spoiler-free summary:
Subhash and Udayan Mitra, in their younger years, could pass as twins. Inseparable and mischievous, their boyhood in Calcutta is the essence of nostalgia. But as a political schism shakes India, the boys find themselves drifting apart. Despite the space and time between them, life's cruelties ensure that they remain hopelessly entangled - haunted by one another.

I listened to this on audiobook while driving to and from work. I think I would have liked it less if I had read it in print. I'm in this distractable, impatient phase; Nothing is intense enough, nothing is what I want it to be. I attribute this to being in a weird part of my life where I'm so in tune with my emotions that anything that's not biting, razor-sharp and real is disappointing. The Lowland ebbed and surged - flaring out into these beautiful, soul-wrenching scenes that made my chest hurt, and then falling away again into lulling, stagnant monotony.

Listening to this in the confines of my car ensured that I made it through those slower scenes, the long stretches of time in which no one really did anything. There was a lot of exposition in this book and I feel like I zoned out for long periods of time, forgetting to listen, but came back in time for some poignant, reverberating scene.

At times, I felt overwhelmed. This book spans decades and continents. There are political movements I've never heard of (and still don't really understand, despite being pivotal to the plot). There are complicated names and foreign holidays. However, when I think about it all now, from the ending, I feel somewhat underwhelmed; Despite all of these ranges and places, this book said something very small, though I'm not sure I could define it for you.

I've read a lot of reviews from people who weren't happy with the progression of the characters - who felt like no one evolved. I agree, it does seem like everyone fell into stasis after Udayan's death, but I liked this. I think this was the point. Like the Lowland, they were stagnant, resistant, unchanging until the world slowly overtook them.

I was feeling unsatisfied toward the end of the book, though I think we were meant to feel that way, but the last page brought me back, made me content.

Buy The Lowland today in a multitude of formats.

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