Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Lowland - Review

Born just fifteen months apart, Subhash and Udayan are inseparable brothers, one often mistaken for the other in the Calcutta neighborhood where they grow up. But they are also opposites, with gravely different futures ahead.

It is the 1960s and Udayan - charismatic and impulsive - finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement: he will risk all for what he believes. Subhash, the dutiful son, does not share his brother's political passion; he leaves home to pursue a life of scientific research in a quiet, coastal corner of America.

But when Subhash learns what happened to his brother in the lowland outside their family's home, he comes back to India, hoping to pick up the pieces of a shattered family and to heal the wounds Udayan left behind - including those seared in the heart of his brother's wife. Suspenseful and piercingly intimate, The Lowland is a masterly novel of fate and will, exile and return. This is Jhumpa Lahiri at the height of her considerable powers.

About The Author

Jhumpa Lahiri is the author of three previous works of fiction: Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake and most recently, Unaccustomed Earth. A recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, a PEN/Hemingway Award, the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2012.

This June, while I was done reading most of my unread piles, I decided to give ‘The Lowland’ (which has been lying unopened for so many years in my book shelf), its share of attention, and whoa, what a revelation it has been. I was instantly struck with regret – why didn’t I read this before? But then, as they say, there is always a perfect time for everything. Probably, my tryst with this masterpiece was slated for this summer.

‘The Lowland’ characterizes time, spanning decades, going back and forth with whatever each moment has to offer. Subhash and Udayan are the two protagonists, siblings, who move onto different paths, their choices conflicting, yet their bond endearing. They are conjoined by an inexplicable camaraderie of brotherhood, so much that their stories remain entwined till the end.

There is Gauri, fiery, with a mind of her own, but trapped in fate’s ordeals. Though strong in outlook, her vulnerability is essayed in many decisions that she takes throughout the course of her journey. There are times when she is wrong, and moments when she has been wronged, her path criss-crossing with the two brothers, jittery, unsteady, but always in focus.

And then there is Calcutta, gradually progressing to Kolkata. The markets, the people, and the rickshaw – pullers, the politics all around, the unrest, and then finally the change that years of instability bring, form the core of this novel.

‘The Lowland’ is an experience, an emotional one, a struggle between guilt and determination, failure and the ongoing expectation, a hope, a dream. It’s real, caressing the boundaries of human aspirations. ‘The Lowland’ is a remarkable voyage, where one could be lost, hoping to be found, again.

Title: The Lowland
Authors: Jhumpa Lahiri
Publisher: Random House India
Publication Year: 2013
Language: English
Binding: Hardcover
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
No. of Pages: 344
Price: Rs 499
My Rating: 5/5