Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Book in Review

One of my main means of relaxing is by reading.  I have always been a reader.  Usually, I am a fast reader too.  While I was in graduate/professional school (wow that sounds fake) I had so much official reading to do I didn't do much pleasure reading.  I am really starting to get back into it and after exhausting a few authors the librarian recommended, I turned to my colleagues.  T and E read a LOT.  They seemed like good sources of referrals. 

One of the books E recommended was The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri.  Let me say, it is a great book.  Amazingly well written.  As someone who has a unique name (disclaimer: Sara is not technically my name) I can relate to Gogol.  When I was growing up I wanted to change my name.  Not completely unlike The Namesake, I wanted to change my name and looked to a literary character for inspiration.  (Now my choice was Mimi from the Babysitters Club ... but regardless.) 

As the reader, we get to see how tradition plays a role in naming a baby.  As an Ashkenazi Jew, we have naming traditions as well.  For instance, you name after someone who is deceased.  You use either the first letter or the sound of that persons name.  Now we also have Hebrew names.  These can be the English version of your Hebrew name or similar or something entirely different.  Completely depends.  Regardless, I can relate to having traditions around names.

It is also interesting how the author manages to change the point of view.  Gogol, the main character, is not born until later in the book.  Initially the story focuses around his parent's relationship.  I commend Lahiri for weaving the focus of the stories.

One concern, I think there may be an error (disclaimer: I didn't go back and reread before returning the book to the library so I am uncertain).  In the book, Lahiri mentions that one day Gogol will return to the same apartment his parents lived in when the story opened and will be immensely happy.  I don't recall this ever happening.  Ever.  Maybe it was meant as more general foreshadowing that we the reader are not included in knowing? 

Regardless, I would definitely recommend this work. 

A Book in Review Grade: B+

I did also just finish reading her first book, Interpret of Maladies.  This book I would not recommend.  I think she tried to fit too much story into short stories.  A few of them have great characters that could have been developed more and made into full length works.  Some others fell far short of the greatness she exhibits in The Namesake.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! So glad you like the Namesake. I also wish some of the stories in the Interpreter of Maladies were novels instead of short stories, which would have allowed Lahiri to build on the characters. Nevertheless, i would still read anything else she writes.
    Another book I would highly recommend in the same genre is The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. I also recommend books by Amy Tan (The Joyluck club, The Kitchen God's Wife etc.)
    Anyway, I would love to see more book reviews on your blog cuz I often find myself looking for recommendations.


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