Read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri Online


The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves. The New York Times has prThe Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves. The New York Times has praised Lahiri as "a writer of uncommon elegance and poise." The Namesake is a fine-tuned, intimate, and deeply felt novel of identity....

Title : The Namesake
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780547429311
Format Type : ebook
Number of Pages : 304 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Namesake Reviews

  • Anna
    2019-04-26 14:42

    After finishing the Namesake, my thoughts were drawn to my last roommate in college, an Indian woman studying for her PHD in Psychology. When I first moved in, she had just broken up with her white boyfriend. “It never would have worked out anyway…” she had cried. By the end of that same year she was flying of to Houston to be wed to a man she had only seen once, a marriage arranged by their parents. Many nights my other roommate (an exchange student from Berlin) and I would sit out on the balcony smoking cigarettes and marveling at the concept of an arranged marriage in the new millennium. This book made me understand her a little bit better, her choice in marriage and other aspects of our briefly shared lives, like: her putting palm oil in her hair, the massive Dutch oven that was constantly blowing steam, or her mother living with us for 3 months. This is after all the story of an Indian growing up American and the cultural adaptations and clashes that color his life. Perspective shifting from parent to child and back again, it’s an engaging view of an immigrant family in America. Gogol hates his name, and the Bengali traditions that are forced on him since childhood. The reader follows him through adolescence into adulthood where his history and his family affect his relationships with women more than anything else. As much as this book was heralded for its exploration of the immigrant experience, as any truly great piece of literature, its lessons are universal... Anyone who has ever been ashamed of their parents, felt the guilty pull of duty, questioned their own identity, or fallen in love, will identify with these intermingling lives. The pace in which she tells it is exactly equal to looking back on the memories of a life lived. Skimming over the mundane, she punctuates the cherished memories and life changing events that are now somewhat hazy. It is a superb first novel.

  • Brina
    2019-03-28 23:08

    In 2000, Jhumpa Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for her story collection Interpreter of Maladies, becoming the first Indian to win the award. In the last story, an engineering graduate student arrives in Cambridge from Calcutta, starting a life in a new country. This story is the basis for The Namesake, Lahiri's first full length novel where she weaves together elements from her own life to paint a picture of the Indian immigrant experience in the United States. Ashoke and Ashmina Ganguli, recently wed in an arranged marriage, have immigrated to Boston from Calcutta so that Ashoke can pursue a PhD in engineering. A world away from their Bengali family and friends and in the days before the Internet, their only means of communication was aero grams. Ashmina is immediately homesick for India so she founds a network of Bengalis up and down the east coast, preserving traditions and creating a pseudo-family in her new country. With her husband learning and teaching, these friends are a reminder of home for her, and, as a result, she never fully assimilates into American society. Within the first year of the Gangulis arrival, Ashmina becomes pregnant with the couple's first child. Adhering to Bengali tradition, Ashmina's grandmother is supposed to name the baby, but her letter never arrives. Ashoke contemplates and comes up with the only name he can think of: Gogol, after the Russian writer, whose volume of short stories saved his life during a fatal train derailment in India. Both Ashoke and Ashmina desire that Gogol have a Bengali life in America despite being one of few Indian families in their area. Gogol and his younger sister Sonali grow up fully assimilated as Americans. They barely speak Bengali and only once in awhile crave Indian food. Both choose career paths that are not traditionally Indian so that they have little contact with the Bengali culture that their parents fought so hard to preserve. Lahiri even creates a character based on her own immigrant experiences who desires an identity different than Bengali or American and seeks a doctorate in French literature. Based in Brooklyn and Paris, this woman resembles Lahiri as she learned to speak Italian and lived in Rome for a number of years. Lahiri and her character sought to remake themselves in order to distance themselves from the Bengali culture that their parents forced upon them as children. As in Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri paints a rich picture of the Indian immigrant experience in the United States. Using short sentences with rich prose, the story moves quickly as we follow the Ganguli family for thirty five years of their lives. Being an immigrant turns into a unique experience for each character, yet the story centers around Gogol as he moves from Indian American child to American Indian adult. With a novel rich in subplots and provocative issues of the day, Jhumpa Lahiri is quickly becoming a leading voice in literary fiction and a favorite author of mine. I look forward to the other rich novels that Lahiri has in store, and rate The Namesake 4.5 bright stars.

  • Nataliya
    2019-03-26 19:41

    Jhumpa Lahiri's excellent mastery and command of language are amazing.She writes so effortlessly and enchantingly, in such a captivating manner and yet so matter-of-factly that her writing completely enthralls me. Just look at one of my favorite passages - so simple and beautiful: "Try to remember it always," he said once Gogol had reached him, leading him slowly back across the breakwater, to where his mother and Sonia stood waiting. "Remember that you and I made this journey together to a place where there was nowhere left to go." No wonder it took me quite a few days after finishing this book to finally surface from under the charm of her language before I was able to figure out what exactly kept nagging me about The Namesake.You see, The Namesake flows so well that it almost easy to overlook the weak plot development and the unfortunate wasting of so much potential that this story could have had. After finishing it, I had the pleasant 'warm & fuzzy' nostalgic feeling - and yet almost immediately the narrative itself began to fade in my mind, and it became hard to remember what exactly happened over the three hundred pages.In a nutshell, this is a story about the immigrant experience. Ashoke and Ashima are first-generation immigrants to the US from India, and they do not have the easiest time adjusting to the peculiarities of their new home and its culture. Gogol, the protagonist, is their son who is tasked with living the double life, so to speak - fitting in with the culture of his parents as well as the culture of his family's new country. Simultaneously experiencing two cultures is not always easy, and this is the main theme of this book. And these were the bits of the story that I could relate to in a way, being a first-generation immigrant myself."For being a foreigner Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy -- a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been an ordinary life, only to discover that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding. Like pregnancy, being a foreigner, Ashima believes, is something that elicits the same curiosity of from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect."The Namesake is titled so because Gogol is named after a famous Russian writer Nikolai Gogol (the reason I picked up this book, by the way. Nikolai Gogol is a great writer). Famous namesake or not, young Gogol dislikes his unusual moniker quite a bit. This is a set-up for the conflict, which, unfortunately, I felt was quite underdeveloped. You see, Lahiri takes a subtle approach without the need to hit the reader over the head with her message. The story she tells is lifelike - calm, subdued, without extra glamour added to it, without every set-up resulting in a major conflict. But I feel that this subtlety quite often crosses the line into the lull of dullness. The story becomes almost like a diary - with much everyday filler, many simple events, many instances of telling and not showing, and not enough payoff - at least for me. Apparently I love quick gratifications, and this book did not deliver those.I want to reiterate that my issues with this book were very easy (even for me) to initially disregard because of the beauty and near perfection of Lahiri writing style which makes up for many flaws. But ultimately I felt unsatisfied with the story, and therefore I can only give it 3.5 stars. That said, I already bought two other books by Lahiri and will definitely read them. She seems to be a brilliant writer, and maybe will prove to be a better storyteller in her other works.

  • Candi
    2019-04-03 18:01

    "He hates that his name is both absurd and obscure, that it has nothing to do with who he is, that it is neither Indian nor American but of all things Russian. He hates having to live with it, with a pet name turned good name, day after day, second after second… At times his name, an entity shapeless and weightless, manages nevertheless to distress him physically, like the scratchy tag of a shirt he has been forced permanently to wear."Although on the surface, it appears that Gogol Ganguli’s torment in life is due to a name that he despises, a name that doesn’t make any sense to him, the true struggle is one of identity and belonging. Jhumpa Lahiri crafts a novel full of introspection and quiet emotion as she tells the story of the immigrant experience of one Bengali family, the Gangulis. Following an arranged marriage, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli move to America to begin a new life in Cambridge, Massachusetts. While Ashoke has the distraction of a professional career, Ashima feels lost and adrift without family, friends, and the comfort of familiar surroundings. In fact, Ashima will spend decades trying to make a life for herself, trying to fit into a culture that is so alien to the one she has left behind. Upon the birth of her first child, Ashima feels so utterly alone without family by her side to support her and welcome this new baby. "As she strokes and suckles and studies her son, she can’t help but pity him. She has never known of a person entering the world so alone, so deprived." Thus begins Gogol’s life and his pursuit towards understanding and establishing his own identity as a first generation American born to Indian immigrants. Named after Russian writer Nikolai Gogol, our developing protagonist will scorn not only his name but also his parent’s traditions, their quiet ways, their trips to Calcutta to visit family, and their “adopted” Bengali family in America – those friends with similar immigrant experiences to their own. Instead, he yearns to shed his namesake, one that holds special significance in his father’s life for reasons that have yet to be revealed to Gogol himself. I have to wonder if Gogol had earlier learned the extraordinary meaning of this name to his father’s own personal experience, then perhaps Gogol’s approach towards life would have been different. But, in a sense this is a coming of age story for Gogol and perhaps the timing would not have mattered so much as his own maturing and growth. We see Gogol and his sister Sonia embracing American ways – eating Thanksgiving turkeys, preparing for Santa Claus, and coloring Easter eggs – while Ashoke and Ashima continue to expose them to the Bengali customs and celebrations. Once Gogol sets off for college, he attempts to leave behind much of his parent’s influence as well as his name. But in changing a name can a young man really erase his heritage and begin a life ignoring the expectations of his parents, the imprint of their culture? Isn’t this a part of him, just as much as are the American ways and customs? Does he truly need to put aside one way of life in order to find complete happiness in another? Through a series of relationships and life events, Gogol does transform over time, or so I believe, but not without his share of trials and heartache. Jhumpa Lahiri has a gift for penetrating the psyche of each of her characters. It seems there is always something a reader can relate to in each of them, in one way or another – whether likeable or not. Each character is flawed just as every human being is imperfect. I don’t think that one needs to understand the immigrant experience to connect with this book. The Namesake is completely relatable to anyone that has ever strived to fit in, to find an identity, to accept those around us for what they are, not what we think they should be. "Things that should never have happened, that seemed out of place and wrong, these were what prevailed, what endured, in the end."

  • Aubrey
    2019-03-30 18:43

    Look. I admit it. I read for escapist purposes. Specifically, I read to experience a viewpoint that I would never have encountered otherwise. I read to escape the boundaries of my own limited scope, to discover a new life by looking through lenses of all shades, shapes, weirds, wonders, everything humanity has been allotted to senses both defined and not, conveyed by the best of a single mortal's abilities within the span of a fragile stack printed with oh so water damageable ink. I do not read to have my reality handed back to me on more mundane terms than I myself could create on two hours of sleep and a monstrosity of a hangover.The good things about this book? It's readable. Very readable. Very punctual use of commas, and paragraph indentations, and general story flow. And by reading it from cover to cover, I have discovered a pet peeve of mine that I hadn't realized I had been liable to, but now fully acknowledge as part and parcel of my readerly sensibilities. Fortunate for me, not so fortunate for the book.Show, not tell. Perhaps you've heard the phrase, over and over and over to a nauseatingly horrific extent without any additional information as to how exactly to go about accomplishing this mantra. There's a multitude of reasons for following this niftily short doctrine, and one of them is fully encompassed by this novel here, with its unholy engorgement on lists.If a scene pops up, lists of the surroundings. If an action is participated in, lists of all the objects involved, with as prolific a number of brand names as possible. If a character is introduced, well, the only way to go about it is to list of their clothing, their rote physical attributes, their major, their job, their personal history as far as is encompassed by a résumé or Facebook page. Minimal amounts of creative flights, barely a metaphor in sight, and as for deeply resonant emotional delving into the personas meandering the page, down to the very blood and bones of their recognizable humanity? Nadda. I wish I was joking when I said that, had Lahiri not been allowed to pad her story with all these long strings of descriptive sentences that were nothing more than another entry in the same old, same old, you'd be left with fifty pages. If that. The end result was a feeling of being able to read this story quickly, yes, but through a thick layer of cellophane that left in its wake singular feelings of why am I bothering and its good old pal, am I supposed to care?There's another piece of terminology that writing classes love to throw around in addition to that previous standard, and that's voice. If there was a voice in this novel, it was drowned by the endless streams of banal information attached to every inch of the plot's surface, leaving me with the slightly ill sense of watching the consumerism train wreck of typical American society without any reassurance that the author knew what they were doing. Also, the almost constant adherence to stereotypes of Indians who immigrate to America as the engineering->Ivy League->repeat, along with every other gender/familial/socioeconomic stereotype known to humanity? Considering the fact that one of my biggest reasons for reading as much as I do is to find a breakdown of these popular culture standards, I was rather disappointed. Scratch that, I was very disappointed, enough to muse on whether this book, published all of nine years ago, had helped propagate those stereotypes in the first place. Dark thoughts indeed.Finally, the literature title dropping. I suppose I should've expected it, what with the main character's name issues taking up the entirety of the novel's effort when it came to both theme and its own title, but by the end of it I was sick of seeing all those highflown phrases without a single scrip of fictional push on the author's part to live up to these influences. Borrow a few methods of making your prose fly off the page in a churning maelstrom of creating your own beautiful song out of the best the written word has to offer? Fine, dandy, go forth and prosper. Shoving in 'The Man Without Qualities' and Proust within the last few pages in some obtuse attempt to impress those who are in the know? Hipster, and I mean that with a vengeance.So, simply put, if you're looking to recommend me South Asian literature, please oh please grant me a work along the lines of The God of Small Things. Cultural intersection between self and others without relying on the obvious and the physical objects? Check. Characters that broke my heart over and over with their joy and their sorrow that I wish I could follow forevermore? Check. Voice? Just. You'd have to read it. It even has a literature reference, albeit in a way that pays full tribute to the work far beyond the facile typing of its signifying phrase and nothing more.This? Not so much.

  • Jason Koivu
    2019-04-20 15:00

    I thought of a better title! An Indian Family Moves To America And Proceeds To Live. One of these days a publishing house is going to snatch me up and make me Head of Titlings!The Namesake is an expertly-crafted, yet unfortunately dull slideshow. It reads as if you were listening to someone do a documentary-style narration over projected stills...*click!* A young Indian couple came from Calcutta to America.*click!* They started a family in Cambridge, Massachusetts.*click!*Et cetera*click!*Things happen and more things happen, and some of it's interesting, but little of it is captivating. The story lacks purpose, drive and offers up the tiniest morsel of tension. Certainly life-changing moments occur for the Ganguli family, but the reader is never given that certain something needed to give an honest care. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the prose of The Namesake. However, I really thought I was going to love this. There are so many pros: It's got an epic immigrant story; I like learning about other cultures; much of it is set in Boston and it name-drops some of my favorite locales (hello Brattle Theater!). But it's just about as interesting as flipping through a stranger's photo album. I'm sure someone will come along and tell me I'm a provincial-minded lout who doesn't understand some archaic Bengali literary tradition from which The Namesake has been stylized. They're probably right. But that doesn't matter, because this didn't move me. "Me" is the operative word there. For all that, I still enjoyed reading this. The words flow marvelously. Lahiri's scenes and characters are so well-crafted they feel reach-out-and-touch-them real! In many instances through out the book I became entranced by the imagery, lost in the luxuriously decorated background, but then I'd notice the principle players at center stage speaking their lines so eloquently, yet without purpose. I felt like I was watching people walk through life and that annoyed me. I wanted some running! When I read a book, watch a play or a movie I expect to see something more than everyday life. I can get plenty of that at home!

  • Diane S ☔
    2019-04-12 18:55

    Enjoyed reading about the Bengali culture, their traditions, envied their sense and closeness of family. Ashima and Ashoke, an arranged marriage, moving to the USA where Ashoke is an engineer, trying to learn a different way of life, different language, so very difficult. Ashima misses her family, and after giving birth to a son misses them even more. They name their son, Gogol, there is a reason for this name, a name he will come to disdain. Eventually the family meets other Bengalis and they become family substitutes, celebrate important cultural milestones together.This novel gave me a new understanding of just how hard it is to assimilate into a new culture. The first half of the book I remained emotionally unconnected to the characters, felt it was more tell than show. This changed after a family tragedy which afforded an opportunity for the characters to change as well. Was impatient with Gogol and his failure to appreciate everything about his parents, his own culture but he grows within the story as does his mother. So I ended up appreciating this book quite a bit as a cultural story and a family story. Very glad I finally read it. Auto correct hates these names by the way, had to go back and change them three times already.

  • Fionnuala
    2019-04-06 22:05

    I read this book on several plane journeys and while hanging around several airports. I'm putting the emphasis on ‘several’ because it took me a long time to read it even though I was in a hurry to finish. I was in a hurry, not because it was a page turner but because I really needed to get to the end.And although I read it in relatively few days I still read it very very slowly. There are a lot of words in this book. I love words. I can read words quite happily for hours as long as they don't come encased in boring reports or long winded articles. I'd be very poor at reading detailed accounts of real life happenings for a court case or an insurance settlement, for example. I imagine my eyelids would droop and my attention would wander. I'm sure that in such a situation, I'd jump at any opportunity to do something else instead. So it was wise on my part to read this book on a journey, given that I was obliged to remain in my seat and do nothing other than read. It's well known that I can't do nothing, therefore I read this book to the end.You’ll have gathered by now that I think of this book in terms of a report or a historical document, one in which the author felt duty bound to record every detail of the experiences of the people whose lives she had chosen to examine. They may be fictional characters but they sound like real people, and their stories sound like an accumulation of real data. All those trips to Calcutta - it seemed as if the reader gets a report of each and every one.In literary fiction as opposed to report writing, it’s reasonable to expect that an author will have picked through the mass of facts they’ve accumulated, retaining only the best and then further selecting and polishing those best bits in such a way that the reader will admire and retain them in turn. On one or two occasions, Jhumpa Lahiri manages to extract an interesting gem from her accumulations - as when a bride-to-be tentatively places her foot in one of the shoes her future husband has left outside the door of the room where she is about to meet him for the first time. We are with the girl in that pause before she turns the handle on her new life. We see her try it for size. That scene was short and perfect. Contrast it with this description of a character who enters the story for three pages and is never heard from again. Donald (I can’t even remember why he appears in the story now) is tall, wearing flip-flops and a paprika-colored shirt whose sleeves are rolled up to just above the elbows. He is handsome, with patrician features and swept-back, slightly greasy, light-brown hair. What was the significance of the shirt colour, I wondered? Or him being tall, or his hair being greasy? (I also tripped up on ‘whose sleeves’. I'm not used to finding 'whose' referring to an object. Is that just me?)The book is full of metaphors that appear meaningful at first glance but then you say, wait a minute, what does that really mean? As, for example, when the main character and his father walk to the very end of a breakwater, and the father says: “Remember that you and I made this journey, that we went together to a place where there was nowhere else to go.”There had been a long lead-up to this line which ends a chapter. I wondered if I'd missed something significant that would have made the finish line amaze and impress me. But I couldn't bear to wade through the chapter again to find out.The main premise of the book is in fact based on a metaphor: a mistake in the choosing of the main character’s name comes to represent the identity problems which confront children born between cultures. In this case, the American requirement for a baby to be officially named before leaving hospital clashes with the Bengali practice of allowing the baby to remain unnamed until the matriarch of the family has decided on a name. Soon after his (very detailed) birth near the beginning of the book, the main character is temporarily named Gogol by his parents because the letter containing the name chosen for him by his Bengali great grandmother hasn't yet arrived in Boston (The father picks the name Gogol because he owes his life to the fact that he was sitting close to a window reading Gogol’s ‘The Overcoat’ when a train he was traveling on crashed). Since the letter never arrives, ‘Gogol’ becomes the main character’s official name and his love/hate relationship with it eventually comes to define his life. The 'name' issue is interesting but it's a bit of a stretch on the author's part to make it the central framework for the entire saga. I tried hard to relate the story of ‘The Overcoat’ to the main character's life too, in an effort to understand everything better, but apart from wondering if his yearning for an ideal name could be compared to Akaki’s yearning for the perfect overcoat, I was lost. This is a good moment to mention the utter seriousness of Lahiri’s writing. Considering the connections she painstakingly makes with Nikolai Gogol, the lack of humour in her writing stands out in complete contrast to the Russian author who not only knows how to extract the essence of a situation and present it in short form, but also how to do it with underlying humour. I don't dismiss this book about the problems of assimilation and dual identity without asking myself if the relationship Lahiri seems to have with minutiae reveals something important in her writing. As the daughter of Bengali emigrants, I understand that she may feel a responsibility to write down the stories of people like her parents, people who arrived in the US as young emigrants and struggled to retain their own culture while trying to assimilate the new one. People who, once a spouse dies, must move between their relatives, resident everywhere and nowhere. That theme echoes two other books I read recently about exiles, Us & Them and Exit West, both of which led me to read The Namesake - I wanted to see how Lahiri dealt with similar issues. But while there are parallels between the three books, 'Us&Them' and 'Exit West' are beautifully pared back; the extraneous details have all been removed and we’re left, especially in the case of 'Us&Them', with exquisite literary cameos that are far more memorable than Lahiri’s lengthy if historically accurate scenarios. I feel that Lahiri may have some awareness of her tendency to include too much information. She offers a kind of run-through of the themes in the last few pages as if her book had been a textbook and we students needed to have the central arguments summed up for us. But alongside that awareness, I wanted Lahiri to impose some writing constraints on herself. I wanted her to consider how she would write if she had only a very limited vocabulary and the simplest of grammar structures at her disposal.But she did exactly that, I hear you shout, she went to live in Italy for two years and forced herself to read and write only in Italian! Coincidentally, I have the book that resulted from that journey though it had lain unread since I bought it some months ago. So I searched my book piles and found In Other Words and began to read it. It's a parallel text - her original Italian text plus a translator’s English version. Lahiri says at the beginning that she purposely avoided translating it herself because she feared she would alter it in the process, making it more elaborate….and longer! She has a lot of interesting things to say about her own writing:By writing in Italian I think I am escaping both my failures with regard to English and my success. Italian offered me a very different path. As a writer I can demolish myself, I can reconstruct myself…I am in Italian, a tougher, freer writer, who, taking root again, grows in a different way…My writing in Italian is a type of unsalted bread. It works, but the usual flavor is missing. On the other hand, I think that it does have a style, or at least a character. The language seems like a waterfall. I don't need every dropAnd most interesting of all in the context of this (rather long-winded) review, she says: I continue, as a writer, to seek the truth, but I don't give the same weight to factual truth...

  • Kate
    2019-04-15 19:48

    I liked the first 40 pages or so. I was very interested in the scenes in India and the way the characters perceived the U.S. after they moved. But soon I found myself losing interest. There were several problems. One is that Lahiri's novelistic style feels more like summary ("this happened, then this, then this") rather than a story I can experience through scenes. The voice was flat, and this was exacerbated by the fact that it's written in present tense. I never emotionally connected to these characters. I also got bored with the second half that focused on lots of rich, young New Yorkers sitting around drinking wine. I haven't read her two story collections, but I've heard she's a phenomenal short story writer--so I'll definitely give those a try. Seems like some fantastic short story writers (like Aimee Bender and Alice Munro) are pressured to write novels when in fact they are brilliant at the story. It's like asking a surgeon to be an attorney.

  • Saleh MoonWalker
    2019-04-01 18:07

    Onvan : The Namesake - Nevisande : Jhumpa Lahiri - ISBN : 618485228 - ISBN13 : 9780618485222 - Dar 291 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2003

  • Jibran
    2019-04-11 14:47

    Book subtitle: I will write down everything I know about a certain family of Bengali immigrants in the United States by Jhumpa Lahiri.Immigrant anguish - the toll it takes in settling in an alien country after having bidden adieu to one’s home, family, and culture is what this prize-winning novel is supposed to explore, but it's no more than a superficial complaint about a few signature – and done to death - South Asian issues relating to marriage and paternal expectations: a clichéd immigrant story, I'm afraid to say.Gogol’s life, and that of every person related to him in any way, from the day of his birth to his divorce at 30, is documented in a long monotone, like a camera trained on a still scene, without zooming in and out, recording every movement the lens catches, accidentally. A final picture emerges in which nothing in particular stands out; and twists that could have been explored more deeply, on a philosophical and humanistic level, such as Gogol’s disillusionment with his dual identity or the aftermath of (Gogol’s father) Ashoke’s death are touched upon perfunctorily or rushed through. Some cultural comparisons are made as though to validate the enlightened United States at the cost of backward India. This is a familiar line in immigrant success stories: to justify their decision to migrate to the West by heaping scorn on the country or culture of their origin.But even that's not done intelligently. E.g; Maxine’s mother wears swimsuit on the lakeside; Gogol thinks his mother would never do that. Maxine’s parents don’t bother when Gogol moves into their house and have sex with Maxine; Gogol's parents would have been horrified! It is almost in these words the comparisons are made. Well, of course. We get it.However, on the bright side, I liked the trope of public vs private names – Nikhil aka Gogol - and how Lahiri relates this private, accidental double-naming to the protagonist's larger identity crisis as an American and Indian immigrant. But, again, it's also wasted; it doesn't stand out; nothing catches your fancy; nothing piques your interest; and you sit with a little impatience welling up inside you. You just sit there, squinting your eyes, making faces at the text, wondering...Pulitzer? Are you kidding me?February 2015

  • Sara
    2019-04-02 15:02

    We first meet Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli in Calcutta, India, where they enter into an arranged marriage, just as their culture would expect. Ashoke is a professor in the United States and takes his bride to this foreign country where they try to assimilate into American life, while still maintaining their distinctly Bengali identities. When their first child is born, a son, they are awaiting a letter from Ashima’s grandmother telling them his name, which she is to have selected. In the absence of the letter, and at the insistence of the American hospital, they select what is meant to be a temporary name. The name of Ashoke’s favorite author, the Russian Gogol.There is a great significance in Ashoke’s selection of this name for his son, but Gogol does not know this. All he knows as he grows older is that he has a name that is strange and cumbersome and unwieldy and that he wants a name that blends and reflects his world, not the world of Bengal but the world of America. His name becomes, for him, evidence of his not belonging.Against this backdrop, Lahiri examines the immigrant experience of the Gangulis, the confusion and difficulties faced by the first generation Americans who are their children, and the delicate ties that bind the generations to each other and to the culture they have left behind. As we watch Gogol progress through his life, there is much that we understand from our own experience and much that is unique to his experience alone. In the end, I found this book was about expectations. The expectations parents have for their children, the expectations we have for ourselves, the need to live up to a criteria we sometimes do not understand or come to understand far too late, and the loneliness of each individual, even within the confines of a loving family. By any standard, this book would be quite an accomplishment. As a first novel, this book is amazing. I have Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies on my shelf and I am now anxious to get to it. She is destined to be an important voice in literature.

  • Mariah
    2019-03-27 23:00

    I read this book for my hometown book club. This book is an easy, smooth read. I've been wanting to read a book by Jhumpa Lahiri for a long time and I'm glad the opportunity finally arised. I now have put all the other books that my library has by her on hold.I think part of the reason I connected so much with this book is because my best friend from college was an immigrant at age 6 from India. Her parents are traditional in a country that is completely different than theirs. They would like their daughters to end up with a man from India. However, they live in a city with only 80 Indian people total. When you takeaway all the children, parents and non-single men that doesn't leave much choice. While reading this book I kept thinking of her.The book starts off with the Ganguli parents living their traditional life in Calcutta and then their large move to become Americans. Right after their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ashoke is an engineer and adapts into the American culture much easier than his wife, who resists all things American. When their son is born, the task of naming him becomes great in this new world. Since the baby can't leave the hospital without a name they decide it to be Gogol. The name of a Russian writer that his father loved.The book then starts following Gogol as he stumbles along the first-generation path. He has a strewn conflict with loyalties, crazy love affairs with Indian and non-Indian women and so much more. The author really shows what troubles face first-generation children.I loved this book and was so taken by the main character. I really hope the author will someday write a second book!

  • Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym)
    2019-03-28 19:54

    [Review redacted in hindsight.]

  • Cheryl
    2019-04-13 18:47

    As I read this book, a Mexican-American family sold their home across the street from mine, and an Italian-American couple moved in three houses down. With the book still open on my lap, somewhere in New York City, while walking and talking on her cellphone, my mother laid out a plan for me to help her find a place that was close to her friends from 'back home,' but still somewhere around city amenities. I was immediately forced to consider how my mother is similar to Ashima, the matriarch of her family who is the thread that keeps custom and family together. In this uniquely woven narrative, Lahiri toys with time and details. The prose is so direct and descriptive that it fosters imagery that turn characters into fully-fleshed humans on the page. You have the feeling that every detail has been lived, that the writer has done some thorough observations of the smallest thing, like restaurants on Fifth Avenue and how much specific hats cost, that she has lived in the Ivy League academic circle, that she has struggled with issues of assimilation. Some of the reviews I've read, frankly, make me cringe from the ignorance. It's one thing to write about one's reading experience, another to harshly attack credibility. No wonder Lahiri wrote that she never reads reviews. This may not have been her Pulitzer-winning piece (Interpreter of Maladies was) but I can see how it became a New York Times Bestseller. It seems as if quite a few books strive for empty but decorative prose, sometimes neglecting meaning and transition and nuance. Sometimes I just want a good story, one that moves in layers, one that moves through decades seemingly simply. Not too many writers can toy with time and barely have the reader realize it until one hundred pages later, when the story has ballooned into a multi-faceted plot, which by the way, is what she also did in The Lowland.This story starts in 1968 and continues somewhere in the year 2000. At first glance it seems as if it is about Ashima, the expectant mother who has left her family in India and must assimilate in America with her new husband, an engineering student. She is hopelessly dependent upon her husband, and fearlessly determined to keep her arranged marriage in tact. However, her son, Gogol, or Nikhil, is really the core of this story. Gogol, an architect, is named after The Overcoat man himself, Nikolai Gogol, a writer whose storytelling pacing Lahiri seems to emulate. Gogol's struggle with his name is reflective of the fears most young Americans from immigrant families face: being treated differently because of a name, an accent, traditions, parents who are blatantly non-American. The name is a symbolic addition that morphs at different phases in the novel, adding nuance to delicate inner thoughts.What's in a name? What's in a name change, when one wants to become a part of a new society? This name change isn't something I would pretend to know about, though I do know a few things about the struggle with assimilation and identity when moving to a new country. I was named after an American actress my mother loved, even while my mother laid on an African hospital bed. I didn't know this until watching this actress being interviewed (on tv or internet?) and my cousin blurted out, wow, your mannerisms are just like hers, and my mother yelled from the kitchen, but she was named after her! Gogol struggles with his name even while he dates two liberal American women who admire his culture. He struggles with his name when it becomes the subject of a shallow dinner conversation, when he views it as mockery. He struggles with his name when a teacher rudely informs the class of the writer Gogol's eccentricities and his saddening biography. Later, he appreciates his name when he learns how it was given, when he wants to hold on to special memories, when he finally becomes accustomed to being uniquely different.And yet these events have formed Gogol, shaped him, determined who he is. They were things for which it was impossible to prepare but which one spent a lifetime looking back at, trying to accept, interpret, comprehend. Things that should never have happened, that seemed out of place and wrong, these were what prevailed, what endured, in the end.The different love scenes were captivating. Gogol dated women I saw clearly, women to whom I could attach the names of friends. He became immersed in the literary and art world through Maxine and her parents, where he learned to relax and enjoy the art of living. He became immersed in the world of language with Moushumi, a woman who was interested in French literature and in finding her own way, her own customs; a woman who wanted to read, travel, study in France, entertain friends, explore meaning through the written word; a woman I could relate to. I read this book while also sneaking a peek at my March edition of Poetry where I read Gerard Malanga's reflective poem and ode to Stefan Zweig: "Stefan Zweig, 1881-1942." I read this as the news about The Wall scrolled across my tv screen: It may be built, it may not be built; Mexico may pay for it; No, Congress will charge taxpayers for it.I read this while an email popped on my phone from a relative who lives part-time in West Africa and part-time in America: place a call for him to his doctor in America who he visits once a year for a physical he says, because they'll take my accent seriously, but not his. Oy. What's in a name; what's in an accent? And why would someone even try to discern if that someone has not even experienced the trials of moving to a new society, if that someone has lived in the same locale for a lifetime?

  • PorshaJo
    2019-04-02 14:43

    Such a great book. My second book by Lahiri and it did not disappoint. Her writing is beautiful and lyrical. I did see this movie many times as it is a favorite. Even though I know the story, the book seemed new to me. The audio version was so easy to listen to. I an fascinated by Indian culture and love reading about it. I can see myself reading this one over and over again and will be watching the movie again very soon.

  • Sandhya
    2019-04-24 15:07

    It would only be fair to mention here that I saw Mira Nair's adaptation of the book before I actually got down to reading this novel recently. Having loved the film, I was keen to see how Lahiri had approached her characters and where its cinematic version stood in comparison.I'll say two things. First, I feel this is one of the few times when the film more than does justice to the book and second, that the book itself is a deeply involving and affecting experience. In fact, so compassionate and compelling is the writer's understanding of her characters and their complexes, that the novel stays uniformly engaging till the very last page. Also, it helps that this is an extremely easy read and I for one, found myself going through it at a ravenous pace.As a reader, one gets instantly drawn into the lives of young Ashima and Ashoke, who are a bundle of nerves in an alien country, far from adoring relatives and friends in Calcutta. The writer's description of how the couple grapples with the ways of a new world yet tightly holding on to their roots is deeply moving and rings true at every point.When a letter from their grandmother in India, enclosing the name for their first born doesn't arrive in time, Ashoke instinctively and naively (as their son says later in life) names him Gogol- a name, derived from the Russian author, Nikolai Gogol, with whom the latter feels a deep connection. The name comes to embarrass their son as he grows older and is a reminder of his confused being -it's not even a proper Bengali name, he protests!Gogol's agony is not so much about being born to Indian parents, as much as being saddled with a name that seems to convey nothing, in a way accentuating his feeling of "not really belonging to anything"After much internal struggle, he changes his name to a more acceptable Indian name, Nikhil and feels it would enable him to face the world more confidently.But for me personally, the best part of the novel was Gogol's marriage to his childhood family friend Maushami Muzumdar. The latter is far from a conventional Bengali girl and Gogol is attracted to her individualistic streak and high living. In many ways, Maushami bridges a certain important gap in his mind and presents to him the best of both worlds --- she's Bengali like him, so in a strange way that's a comforting feeling. At the same time, she displays the same excessive, broadminded living of the Americans. However, the fact that this relationship collapses and leaves no mark in their individual lives whatsoever, is also a telling statement about how, ultimately, coming from a similar background provides no guarantee for marital success. On the other hand, his sister Sonia's marriage to an American proves to be quite blissful. I've presented only an abridged version of my review but those with inclination to read further can see it my blog;

  • Phrynne
    2019-04-14 16:06

    This book tells a story which must be familiar to anyone who has migrated to another country - the fact that having made the transition to a new culture you are left missing the old and never quite achieving full admittance into the new. In fact a feeling of never quite belonging to either.This is the experience for Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli and it is probably made worse by the fact that India and America have such totally different cultures. The story follows their lives for 32 years from when Ashima is pregnant and facing delivering her first child the American way without the comfort of her extended Indian family and all their social customs to help her.Lahiri writes beautifully and the book is a pleasure to read. She also sees right to the heart of the issues of migrant families, from the mother who never adapts fully to the children who try to cast off their roots but find it very difficult to do.My only issue was with the way the narrative rambles on, often about very insignificant issues yet passing too quickly over more important events. It was very well written rambling of course but my mind did occasionally wander away from the book. Despite this, this is a beautiful book which tells a very important story and is well worth reading.

  • Maxwell
    2019-04-12 18:51

    3.5 stars My favorite parts of any Jhumpa Lahiri story—whether it's a short story or novel—are her observations. She's so great creating realistic, emotionally-charged moments in her novels that feel so true to life. That being said, I think she excels at crafting narratives in the short story format. Both novels I've read from her have had wonderful and memorable moments but as a whole fall a little flat for me. The use of the third-person, present tense is also not my favorite because it convinces you that you are experiencing these things with the characters but you are held at a distance because you can't get inside their heads. I don't think it worked well here, and especially for a novel that deals a lot with nostalgia, traditions, and the past's effect on the present, I think the past tense would've worked better. That being said, I love Lahiri and will read anything she writes because scattered throughout her works are some incredible images, strong emotions, and lovely stories of families.

  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    2019-03-27 17:03

    The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiriتاریخ نخستین خوانش: ششم نوامبر سال 2014 میلادیعنوان: همنام؛ نویسنده: جومپا لاهیری؛ مترجم: گیتا گرکانی؛ تهران، نشر علم، 1383، در 384 ص، شابک: 9644053737؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان هندی قرن 21 معنوان: همنام؛ نویسنده: جومپا لاهیری؛ مترجم: امیرمهدی حقیقت؛ تهران، ماهی، 1383، در 360 ص؛ چاپ دوم 1384؛ چاپ سوم 1385، چاپ پنجم 1393؛عنوان: همنام؛ نویسنده: جومپا لاهیری؛ مترجم: فریده اشرفی؛ تهران، مروارید، 1383، در 386 ص؛ چاپ دوم 1384؛عنوان: همنام؛ نویسنده: جومپا لاهیری؛ مترجم: زهره خلیلی؛ تهران، قطره، 1386، در 425 ص؛ شابک: 9789643415921؛همنام نخستین رمان جومپا لاهیری ست. ایشان همنام را نخست به‌ صورت داستانی بلند در مجله‌ ی نیویورکر منتشر کردند؛ و سپس در سال 2004 میلادی طرح آن را گسترش دادند و به صورت یک رمان درآورند. همنام نیز همانند مجموعه‌ داستان «مترجم دردها» از همین نویسنده، به مشکلات فرهنگی هندی‌ها در دنیای مدرن می‌پردازد. لاهیری در این رمان مشکلات و دشواری‌های زندگی زوجی بنگالی را توصیف می‌کند؛ که به امریکا مهاجرت کرده‌ اند. این زوج در امریکا با سبکی از زندگی مواجه می‌شوند، که تفاوت بسیاری با نوع زندگی آنها دارد و برایشان نامأنوس است. ا. شربیانی

  • Usman Hickmath
    2019-04-19 15:01

    “Being a foreigner, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy—a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been ordinary life, only to discover that that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding. Like pregnancy, being a foreigner, is something that elicits the same curiosity from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect.” Those lines vouch for how beautifully Jhumpa Lahiri has portrayed the struggle of emigrants’ life in West. Her depiction of conflict of cultures faced by the second generation emigrants is interesting. But these MIT educated, middle class families’ struggles are completely different from what is being faced by the blue collar emigrant workers in Middle East and West. Would like to read a good work which represents them. Please recommend if you have read any on this area.

  • Iris P
    2019-04-19 15:53

    So an Idaho School District is considering the possibility of banning The Namesake from their high schools reading list. I don't know about other parents, but I trust that my kids are not going to read this beautiful novel and somehow plunge into a life of drug abuse...Also, I might be mistaken since I read it a few years ago, but I don't recall that the use of recreational drugs is an essential part of the plot of this novel...

  • Julie Ehlers
    2019-03-28 20:42

    Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies was a collection I admired more than I enjoyed, so I’m sorry to say I was apprehensive about reading her first full-length novel—but happy to report that it was an absolutely great experience. The Namesake is one of those books that works so well, so seamlessly, that it's hard to break it down into its various moving parts. I absolutely loved the characters (in fact, I flat-out longed for Gogol’s sister to have her own book, so intriguing did I find even the minor players), and the emotional impact of the book, for me, was considerable. But what I may have loved the most was simply the use of good old-fashioned excellent storytelling in service of the theme of being caught between the country where your roots are and the country where you make your home. I don’t read enough novels like this, but that’s about to change.

  • Emma
    2019-04-17 19:08

    You've heard this story before. Junot Diaz, Julia Alvarez, Anzia Yezierska, and Edwidge Danticat are just a few of the authors who have told their own versions. The story they all have in common: The immigrant experience in the United States. Each of the above authors tackles this subject from a different enthnographic perspective, but the pull between the old (native) culture and the new (immigrant) one is always present.Pulitzer prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri adds to this conversation with "The Namesake" (her first novel which was a follow up to her short story collection "Interpreter of Maladies" which won the Pulitzer): the epic story of the Ganguli family's arrival and assimilation into the world of the United States.The story begins when Ashoke and his wife (of an arranged marriage), Ashima, come to Massachusetts where Ashoke is a graduate student at MIT. The year is 1968. At the beginning of the novel Ashima is pregnant with her first child, a son.In Bengali culture, it is common for people to have a formal name and a pet name (nickname). Ashoke has no problem coming up with a nickname for their son: Gogol. Unfortunately, due to a variety of mishaps and misunderstandings, the formal name proves harder to settle on and even harder to enforce. So Gogol Ganguli grows up with only a pet name--one that is not American, or Indian, or a first name.No one really cares that Gogol's name is so unique, except Gogol whose anxiety over his name is bothersome enough that no external taunts are necessary. Gogol eventually resolves to rename himself, but not after learning the life-changing story that inspired his father give Gogol his name in the first place.Despite the vast period Lahiri writes about, the novel's focus remains narrowly focused on the characters, especially Ashima and her son. Despite the authenticity that Lahiri brings to her main characters, certain scenes remain naggingly artificial--feeling simultaneously improbable and contrived.Lahiri's writing here (I've yet to read her short stories) is beautiful without being pretentious or overly self-aware. The story feels authentic and compelling despite the fact that so many of the cultural references remain worlds away.Even more interesting is the fact that I enjoyed almost the entire novel despite having a strong dislike of Gogol and several of the secondary characters. (I'd say more about what this means in terms of the writing style/skill but I still haven't figured out how that happened.) Despite my misgivings throughout the novel, Gogol does work toward redeeming himself by the end of the story.Regardless of my nitpicks, "The Namesake" remains a must for anyone interested in the immigrant experience in America. Lahiri's narrative hearkens back to Jeffrey Eugenides' "Middlesex" which has a similar scope, tracing three generation's relationship with Detroit."The Namesake" deals with common themes but, as any good book should, Lahiri makes these subjects new and original with her unique characters and wonderful writing.

  • Tatiana
    2019-03-30 18:07

    This appears to be written specifically for Western readers with no knowledge of Indian culture. You know, a commercial, populist work aimed to give you a flavor of India, shock you with arranged marriages, Indian family dynamics, struggles of Indian immigrants, etc., which at the same time gives you no real insight into the foreign mentality that isn't superficial or obvious. Nothing new for me here. I say read In Other Rooms, Other Wonders instead if you are looking for something less trite.

  • Riley
    2019-04-17 14:46

    I've read this book 3 different times for school and for some reason never rated it on here

  • K.D. Absolutely
    2019-03-30 19:04

    No second thought at all: this book is well-written.It has all the elements of a good novel: tight intriguing plot, show don't tell, memorable characters that you can't help but empathize with and it teaches us a thing or two about being marginalized if not discriminated or alienated because we are different from most of the people we find ourselves with. I am living in the country where I was born but I have two siblings who are now living in the West (older brother in California and older sister in Winnipeg) and I have heard sorry stories about their struggles to fit in when they were starting to live in those far foreign countries. My 78-y/o mother is also living alone in a senior's apartment in National City, CA and she's been there for almost twenty years now and there are more Filipinos in that senior's apartment so she says that sometimes she feels that she is still in the Philippines with the TFG (The Filipino Channel) on whenever she is awake and inside her room.I am sure my brother, sister and my mom felt the same way as the couple Ashoke and Ashimi in this first novel by Jhumpa Lahiri (born 1967). Especially since my brother and my sister-in-law have two kids although their first born is called Jonathan (taken from the OT because my brother is deeply religious but not the religious type who quotes biblical verses or maintains a religious blog as a facade to hide an evil lurking inside his sheep's clothing) and not after an Asian writer like Jose Rizal, Haruki Murakami or Mo Yan. In the case of the couple in this book, they named their firstborn Gogol from the Russian writer Nicholai Gogol (1809-1852) because Ashoke was saved from the train accident while reading a book by that author. Lahiri drew inspiration from her own experience as her real name is Nilanjana Sudeshna and when she was in grade school, her teacher just called her "Jhumpa" as it was easier to pronounce. Lahiri recalled, "I always felt so embarrassed by my name.... You feel like you're causing someone pain just by being who you are." So, Gogol, the main protagonist in the book refuses to understand the simple reason for his name and denies his heritage as an Bengali and when he grows up he constantly struggles to shed anything Indian in himself to the point of ignoring his family. Contrast is provided by Lahiri in the person of Gogol's younger sister named Sonia as she has an English name thereby breezing through in trying to assimilate with white people. What is in the name? Everything. We use it everyday - in the office we wear our IDs hanging by our necks, our cubicles have our names, our emails have our signatures by default. That's why when my daughter was born, I and my wife really made sure that we chose the best name for her - not too traditional, not old-sounding, not to western but also not after some writers or movie actress.There is almost nothing to dislike about this book. It's just that I did not have any first-hand experience of rearing a child in another country. I had some experiences when I felt discriminated during my trips abroad particularly in the Western countries but they were just some events and did not really humiliated me bigtime. Yet, we don't really need to have similar experiences of our own in order to appreciate good stories, right? Good writing is good writing regardless of whether we could relate to the story or not.

  • Paul
    2019-04-24 20:42

    This is a diaspora novel; the story of a Bengali family moving to America; the intermingling of cultures, the way different generations adapt and change. It is really well written and is very easy to read and I enjoyed this more than the collection of short stories by the same author. The plot itself is fairly thin and revolves around the main protagonist Gogol Ganguli, his parents (who move to America from India and his various doomed love interests. There are some good food descriptions, and for me that always improves a novel!Lahiri describes cultural alienation rather well; the struggles with dress codes, the tensions between traditional moral values and more modern mores, feeling apart from society, mixing with others in the same situation. Lahiri sometimes switches narrators; this can be illuminating, but she doesn't really do it enough and some alternative points of view would have strengthened the whole. Gogol/nikhil sometimes felt a little flat and more input from the female characters would have made him more three dimensional. It's also about growing up and leaving home; becoming an adult with your parents. There was an emotional warmth and tenderness to this novel which I enjoyed; Lahiri's characters were all likeable in their own way. A simple fable of life, love, growing up and food. Not bad at all.

  • Diane
    2019-04-09 21:50

    I was inspired to read this book after watching the movie. The prose is lovely; her descriptions are so personal and detailed that it makes it seem as if you have known these characters all your life. I was completely absorbed in this book and sad when it ended -- I wanted to stay with these characters, see how the rest of their lives turned out.

  • Shamik
    2019-04-16 19:04

    I could write a book about how this book affected me. I am an American Bengali and, for much of my life, I have taken my cultural background for granted, if not lost sight of it completely. "The Namesake" takes the little efforts and rituals in my family that I have always thought to be "weird", and weaves them into something utterly beautiful. Amazing novel.