I have heard so much about “The Namesake”, although more so in terms of the movie and in a few instances book too. And everyone who has either read the book or watched the movie have praised it. Although I have not seen the movie but I have watched its trailer starring Irrfan Khan, Tabu and Kal Penn. All 3 actors are my favorite. And the weird thing was that as I was going through the book, I was able to visualize the scenes of the movie with Irrfan and Tabu in it. Both are such fine actors and our film industry is lucky to have them. I can’t even begin to think of any other actors able to do justice to those role of Ashima and Ashoke.
But coming back to the book “The Namesake”, as I mentioned I have heard so many good things about this book even before I started reading it, so my expectations were high. And it just feel a tad bit shorter than that.
It’s a beautiful book and has been written with so much understanding and warmth. Ashima and Ashoke’s journey to the America and settling down there has been so beautifully depicted. How a name ‘Gogol’ seems to affect their lives in so many ways and how they adjust to become parents of ABCD children is well written.
It is clear that Jhumpa Lahiri has seen the two cultures (Bengali and American) too closely, the minute details and nuances of the two cultures have been beautifully brought out.
I have had experienced a few of the things when I was in states and that’s how I can relate to it.
Indian children (for that matter children of any other culture) first trying to dissuade themselves from their roots only to try to reach it later. An identity crisis that you encounter in a foreign land when you are born in America and want to live like Americans but then your roots not letting you go to far.
Discovering your identity and your roots becomes a big task of your life and sometimes you are able to make peace with your conditions and sometimes you always remain restless.
Gogol’s life and it’s challenges, changing his weird name, he trying to get away from his parents only to return back to them, dealing with his father’s death, then associating himself with a Bengali girl, getting married all have been so beautifully written by Lahiri. Hardly anyone can understand those challenges, those hardships, those confusions of being born in a different country and trying to make place for yourself, at the same time keeping your roots intact.
I personally liked Ashima’s character and Gogol’s character a lot, they have been beautifully depicted and carved throughout the book.
Place where I think I was a bit unsatisfied was that I thought that the name has relevance to the entire story and it might have something to do in the end of the book, but the name “Gogol Ganguly” was only partly the focal point of the book and it more sort of depicted the life and times of “the gangulies”. Also the way Gogol was able to return back to his family after his father’s death and leave Maxine and her family so easily didn’t appear so convincing to me.
There was a point in the book, i.e. after Nikhil’s marriage to Moushumi, I thought the book has reached a conclusion and should end but then started Moushumi’s story, which wasn’t uninteresting but I thought it drifted from Nikhil and his family and until a few pages I wasn’t sure what to expect in the end and the end itself was just average.
But this is one book you should read, the beauty of the book is its writing and the way such a complex subject cultural identity, rootlessness and trying to save family traditions has been handled with such ease. Jhumpa Lahiri has done a very good job but it could have been better.
So that’s about it for this week. If you have read the book or watched the movie, do let me know your views.
till next time, Happy Reading