The Namesake : Book Review

About the book

  • Title : The Namesake
  • Author : Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Genre : Fiction
  • Year of publication : 2003
  • Number of pages : 291

About the author

Jhumpa Lahiri is an award – winning author and translator. She received the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for Interpreter of Maladies, which also won the New Yorker Prize for Best First Book, the PEN/Hemingway Award and was shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Award. She was awarded a National Humanities Medal in 2015. Her other works of fiction in English include The Lowland, which was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize in 2013.

Lahiri has also written three books in Italian, including In altre parole ( translated in English as In Other Words) and the novel Dove mi trovo. Her translation of Domenico Starnone’s Trick was a finalist for the National Book Award. She decides her time between Rome and Princeton University, where she is a professor of Creative Writing and Literary Translation.

In 2003,Lahiri published her first novel, The Namesake. The theme and plot of this story was influenced in part by a family story she heard growing up. Her father’s cousin was involved in a train wreck and was only saved when the workers saw a beam of light reflected off of a watch he was wearing.

“Good novelists, like Bengali parents, must make their creation unique, and Lahiri’s central characters are painfully believable…. An extremely good first novel, a glowing miniature of a tiny family making the voyage between two worlds.”

” Lahiri’s prose reveals her as a mistress of the small moment with a debt to the Russian classics.”

Analysis of the book

The Namesake is the debut novel by American author Jhumpa Lahiri. It was originally published in The New Yorker and was later expanded to a full-length novel. It explores many of the same emotional and cultural themes as Lahiri’s Pulitzer- winning short story collection Interpreter of Maladies.

The novel between events in Calcutta,Boston, and New York city, and examines the Nina CES in loved with being caught between two conflicting cultures with distinct religious social and ideological differences.

Gogol was named in haste after his father’s favourite author. Growing up in an Indian family in suburban America, he finds himself yearning to cast off his awkward name,and with it the inherited values it represents.

Determined to live a life far removed from that of his parents, Gogol sets off on his own path, only to discover that the search for identity depends on much more than a name.

Summary of the story

The story begins with Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, a young Bengali couple, who leave Calcutta, India and settles in Central Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When they gave birth to their first child, they weren’t allowed to leave the hospital without providing a legal name in the medical papers and documents of their child.

But as per their family tradition,the naming of a child was done by the elderly and in their case, they were waiting for a letter from their grandmother who was going to give name to their son. But the letter never arrived and the grandmother died. So as per their tradition, a child must have a pet name which will be called by friends or families. And the other name was the good name which will be used officially.

Thus Ashoke pet named their son Gogol by getting inspired from his favourite Russian author, Nikolai Gogol. But they decided to use Nikhil as his official name. But when Gogol was little, he loved his pet name so the teachers of his school named him Gogol in all the official documents.

But as Gogol was growing, he started hating the name Gogol and was eager to change his name officially. On going college,he changed his name to Nikhil. He hated Bengali culture and loved American life and dated American girls. He met Maxine at a party and they both started a relationship. He was accepted by Maxine’s family but she was not that much accepted in Gogol’s family.

When Ashoke died of heart attack in Ohio, Gogol was totally heartbroken and he broke up with Maxine and started more time with his mother and sister. After that he was married to Moushumi,the daughter of his mother’s friend. But within a year Moushumi was no more interested in their marriage and they got a divorce.


At the end, Ashima decided to go to Calcutta as she feels nothing here anymore without Ashoke, and Sonia(Gogol’s sister) decided to marry her boyfriend Ben. Gogol was all alone and at the end he started reading the Russian novels which his father gave him as birthday gift.

“You are still young, free.. Do yourself a favor. Before it’s too late, without thinking too much about it first, pack a pillow and a blanket and see as much of the world as you can. You will not regret it. One day it will be too late.”

“Pet names are a persistant remnant of childhood, a reminder that life is not always so serious, so formal, so complicated. They are a reminder, too, that one is not all things to all people.”

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