"The Lowland" by Jhumpa Lahiri
Subhash and Udayan Mitra are brothers, fifteen months apart in age and inseparable. But they are also complete opposites. Growing up in Calcutta in the 1960’s, the charismatic Udayan is drawn into the Naxalite political movement and drawn into a world of terror and secrecy while under the radar Subhash pursues scientific research and leaves for a quiet life in America.
But when Udayan becomes so committed to the movement he risks everything including his life for it, Subhash is drawn back to India, the dutiful son returning to pick up the pieces and heal the family Udayan has left behind. As decades pass, Subhash’s life is continually touched by the tragedy of Udayan’s life.
The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri, is a sweeping story, spanning decades and continents, politics and society. This a big novel and a touching story that remains long after you turn the last page.
This is the first book I have picked up by Lahiri and I did so because of all the buzz around it and the award nominations. At first glance, it probably isn’t one I would pick up on my own but I am certainly glad I did. The writing is spectacular, it possesses a subtlety that brings forth big moments. While I preferred Udayan’s story to Subhash, I think that furthers the point of them being complete opposites.
I really enjoyed the politics in the book. Recently, I have read a few books that take place in India and it’s been very interesting to learn the history of the country through novels. I found the time period covered in the book to be very interesting, it had me looking online to further discover the politics, and I really enjoyed the way the history unfolded throughout the story.
Before I read the book, I read quite a few comments from readers about how the book drops off at the end. Because of this, I was continually wondering when that point was going to come for me, but it never did. I can see how some people may feel that it fizzled out but not once did I feel the urge to put the book down. The book covers a large span, a lifetime, and the story and pace does change but it is just as meaningful as the rest of the book.
There isn’t much I can add to the conversation that is already going on around this book. I really enjoyed it, found it difficult to put down, and think it is very deserving of the praise and nominations it has been receiving.