“The Lowland” by Jhumpa Lahiri

Final Lowland cover.inddThis is the author’s second novel, published in 2013. Wikipedia says that the novel is about two brothers who come of age in the 1950s and 60s in Calcutta. One of the brothers becomes involved in the Naxalite movement of communist revolutionaries and the other goes to the United States. The book is about the consequences of each of their choices. The book was shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize and other literary awards.

We read this in August 2015 and seven people attended the meeting. Unfortunately, our  group had a less favourable view of the book, with the overall verdict being that it was bearable but dull and unmemorable.  This was confirmed by two further members who couldn’t make the meeting but emailed their thoughts:

Evan –

I really didn’t enjoy Lowland at all. It started OK, and the writing style seemed fairly readable, but the longer it went on the less engaging it became and by the end I resented having to pick it up – if I’d known I wasn’t going to make the meeting I would have given up by halfway.

I had no interest in any of the main characters and couldn’t care less what happened to any of them. The author killed off the only potentially interesting character in Udayan and had the story been more about him and the Naxalites (or at least set in Calcutta rather than the USA) it might have been more interesting. Instead it was just a run-of-the-mill story about nothing in particular. Yet another tale of dreary US academics.

Hilary –

I found this to be not a particularly memorable book but I thought the ‘basic’ story of loss / displacement / family / time was good enough to keep my interest. First part with lots of Indian politics was a bit tricky as I knew nothing about that specifically, as the book neatly demonstrated there is a whole world between Indian politics and Western news reporting.

Individual scores ranged from a low of 3 to a high of 8  and resulted in an overall average of 5.5 based on 10 readers.



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