Why you should read ‘The Lowland’ by Jhumpa Lahiri

Like her previous works, this is also a saga of Indians in the states away from the motherland. This time we follow three generations of the Mitra family.

The book starts in the 1950’s Tollygunge, Calcutta. Subhash and Udayan Mitra, born fifteen months apart , true soulmates in all regards. Udayan is brave, impulsive and ‘blind to self-restraint,like an animal incapable of perceiving certain colors. But subhash strove to minimize his existence, as other animals merged with bark or blades of grass ‘

The first 20 pages are comfortable and happy. We see subhash and udayan grow up together, get their education and make habits together.
The lowland i.e. the place between the the two ponds a metaphor for the two brothers
Just like the lowland there are more geographical characters, like the tolly club, the mosque near their house.
In 1960s, udayan is drawn towards the Naxalite movement. He is passionate about the movement and  chooses to work for it abandoning his studies wheras subhash earns a scholarship to study in the states and moves to Rhode Island to study and subsequently get a job as a professor.

Years go by, udayan gets married and subhash learns to live alone.

Everything that can go wrong, goes wrong and the two brothers never see each other again. The story goes back and forth from Calcutta to states. Once again in similar jhumpa lahiri fashion we follow generations of characters while still staying true and attached to first generation.
We start from Subhash and udayan, to their daughter Bela and get glimpses of their mother bijolis life.
This book is no way a happy book. There are violent details of the naxalite movement in the 1960s and its repercussions on the  brothers.
Then the story shifts to Rhode Island, Subhash Mitra  starts a new life as a husband and father. He carries secrets and lies and is burdened by it.We also get a namesake-like parent-child scene of confrontation and reconciliation.

Overall, the book is a good read and will stay with you.If you enjoy books that stretch across generations, this is definitely a must read!

Ps : There’s a NDTV interview of Jhumpa lahiri in the real tolly club, check it out!

Categories: Book Review

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