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This novel is very well writen; it is beautifully crafted. Readers who, like the narrator, are American-Born East Indians (hopefully, not confused!) will be able to realte very well, as this is a novel writen about the identity crisis faced by this category of individuals.
The novel deals with only the shallower aspects of cultural conflict. Lahiri does not have enough knowledge of India to deal with more profound issues. As I read the novel, all the while I felt that Ashoke and Ashima were too passive - even when they were 'talking' they had a borrowed voice. I do not think this was intentional on the author's part, but her ideas seemed to pervade their thoughts. Ashima and Ashoke seemed to mainly yearn for Indian food; if there was any mention of subjects such as religion or literature, this was skimmed over.
I appreciate that an American audience might think they are learning a great deal about Bengali people, but Bengalis themselves can see the gaping holes in Lahiri's understanding. Bengalis like to think they are artistic and religious - these are the sorts of things that bring immigrant Bengalis together - and communities are usually formed for these reasons. The Bengalis in 'The Namesake' are one-dimensional - Bengali identity to them is only about the superficial things they have lost.
Lahiri should have written the novel from the viewpoints of Gogol and Maushumi, as these are the two characters she herself would relate to. They would visualise India in its superficial state, noting all the customs without trying to discover it in detail. Interestingly, despite my Bengali origin and UK upbringing, I cannot identify with Lahiri's work. Maybe that is because it lacks any universal thought or moral depth.
I was completely caught up in the story--couldn't put down the book. It made me laugh out loud at some points, and I even shed some tears (and I am NOT the kind of person who cries at sad movies!). I agree with the reader who found Ashoke, the father, especially touching, saying so little, keeping so much to himself, and yet giving so much out of love. In some ways, it might have been predictable, but I think Lahiri was trying to make some points about the experience of second generation Americans and Indian culture in particular. It would be hard to do that without characters whose lives are somewhat recognizable. I found it beautifully written and completely engaging.
Unfortunately this book does not live up to the standards set by "Interpreter of maladies" but it is a decent read. The storyline is very cliched and stereotypical, of a second generation Indian-American who evolves between two cultures and then gets stuck somewhere in between. I liked the concept of parallels between Gogol finding his identity in his name and identity in his environment, sadly the climax is a let down, the book starts better than it ends. Hope to read something better from this author.
I loved this book on many levels. The writing is exquisite, the characters real and engaging, and fleshed out via little details. I was very moved by the parents, the father especially. I think people of any age could relate to it, particularly those whose parents immigrated from other parts of the world. Reading this book has made me reflect on and appreciate my own parents more. It has also made me think about the forces that shape people without their awareness.
LA ( aka Loriann)
I began this book with much anticipation. It starts out with an attention getting beginning and it is well written and enganging BUT it has a flaw,
it begins to drag, at about the middle and unfortunately becomes a little bit predictable.
It isnt a bad book at all, it just aimed high, and fell short......
Just my $.02