‘The Namesake’ by Jhumpa Lahiri is a book that had been lying on my shelf for a long, long time, waiting to be picked up. Somehow, I never got around to reading this book of Lahiri’s, though I read her other two books long back and quite liked them. Last week, I was seized by this overwhelming feeling of wanting to read The Namesake, of feeling ready for it. And I did read it. And I enjoyed it too! 🙂
Plot partly revealed
It is the story of Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli, Bengalis who settle in USA, and their two kids – Gogol and Sonia Ganguli. The protagonist of the novel, Gogol Ganguli, has been named after Nikolai Gogol, the famous writer. His father has a special place for the name in his life, but Gogol hates it and gets it changed to Nikhil when he is a teenager. The story begins from the time when Ashoke and Ashima get married and emigrate to USA from India. It goes on to describe the difficulties that they face in embracing a completely new country, new people, a new way of life. Gogol and Sonia, both born in USA, find it difficult to identify with the Indian culture. Lahiri has wonderfully brought out the conflicts in the minds of these people, torn between two diverse cultures. In fact, this was what the novel conveyed most strongly to me, rather than the part about Gogol’s name. Gogol’s hatred for his namesake is only a part of the whole story. I could identify a lot with the pain and confusion that Ashima feels immediately on arriving in USA. I pretty much went through similar feelings as soon as I had shifted to Bangalore from Ahmedabad.
Lahiri has also described beautifully the feelings of hatred that Gogol has for his name as he is growing up, and the remorse that he feels when he learns of the unfortunate incident in his father’s life which was the inspiration for this name. I liked the way the author has described the two different worlds inhabited by Gogol after he changes his name – one comprising of people who have always known him as Gogol, and the other constituting of people who know only Nikhil. I could relate to that, having a close friend who changed her name after entering college.
I enjoyed reading about the various Bengali customs that Lahiri has written about in this book. Lahiri is a brilliant writer, and, as I said here, I wish she would write about other subjects. I would definitely like to read more of her.
I somehow found the story incomplete, as if something was lacking that should have been there. After I finished reading the book, I remember feeling as if there should be more to it. Lahiri’s attention to detail is amazing, and her narration is brilliant. I literally felt a jolt when Ashima finds out that her husband has passed away. The pace is slow, and Lahiri does sometimes dwell on unnecessary details, but, in spite of this, I found it difficult to put down the book. Definitely worth a read! 🙂
I think it’d be a nice idea to rate the books that I read, indicating how much I liked it. I am suttufying this scale from Rambler’s blog. Hope you don’t mind, Rambler!
5 stars Out of this world
4 stars I loved it
3 stars I liked it
2 stars Tolerable
1 star Not worth my time
As for ‘The Namesake’, I’d give it 3.5 stars.
Song for the day: