[Disclaimer: This is a reproduction of my post on The Tossed Salad some time last year. I did not have it on my blog till date, and thought that high time it should well be featured here. I have tried to keep the original post intact. Also the format of this post may look starkly different from the current format I follow for my book reviews, but then, it would have hampered the originality of the post.]

Who does not like music? Only a depleted soul can fail to enjoy the magic of music. Music and books are a part of our culture. There are many a fables told through regional and folk songs and more through the books we have grown up reading. Music and books have the magical power to influence our individual sense of being, our thought process, our outlook towards society, and humanity on the whole.

And when these two come together, you would undoubtedly hear the musical lilt in the flow of words. The rhythm is unmistakable. Jhumpa Lahiri’s words flow rhythmically. An awesome flow of unhindered feelings, mixed as a concoction of sheer practicality and unique eloquence. ‘The Namesake’ necessarily brings out her discriminating, compassionate side which is also quintessentially and wryly human in detailing lives of those transported from India to America.

Pulitzer Prize winner for the year 2000 for ‘Interpretation of Maladies’, a collection of short-stories, ‘The Namesake’ is her first attempt at a novel.

The Ganguli couple move to Cambridge, Massachusetts after their arranged marriage. The book carries us through their difficult transformation from Indian way of living into the everyday American lifestyle. The differences in thoughts, variance in ideologies, experience of foreign-ness. The family is torn between the old family traditions and adapting to the new American way of life. The husband adapts much better than his wife does. The refuses and resists everything American and longs for her family.

Protagonist of this novel is ‘Gogol’, who is named after his father’s favourite Russian author, Nicolai Gogol. Though the father has his own reasons to name his son so, Gogol in his growing years was never able to realize the connection. Instead he hated his own name for its not-so-American existence. The constant booing of friends at school also made him realise so. Growing up as an ABCD (American Born Confused Desi), Gogol is determined to go along the un-treaded path, surpassing every emotional and inherited bondage that comes on his way. And so he does. Starting from changing his name, to living much away from his parents on his own, having frequent affairs as well as break-ups with a number of girlfriends, Gogol did it all; only to be shocked at an unexpected turn of events which makes him realise everything he chose to ignore in order to be accepted in his western world and in his own mind. Gogol decides to set off on the journey of his life once again but this time, with far more wisdom and practicality and closer to his roots.

Jhumpa Lahiri, through her lucid writing makes Gogol and his family come alive among us, as the family next door or far off relatives. She succeeds in painting a subtle canvas of life in “a string of accidents, events unforeseen and unintended”, making them fluid and accessible to the readers. Her eye for details makes the book picturesque for us to read.

The Namesake’ undoubtedly becomes a MUST READ for every individual, irrespective of their nationality and cultural preference. ‘The Namesake’ beautifully enacts the lives of the Ganguly family across generations for us. The story is filled with simplicity and confusion of the family estranged from its roots.

The Namesake’ has been made into a movie by the same name by Mira Nair, starring Irrfan Khan, Tabu and Kal Penn. It includes a modern frolic adaptation of the age old top charter “Ye mera deewanapan hai.”

Verdict: The book easily becomes a must read irrespective of the nationality you belong to of the beliefs you hold. Everone staying away from home will easily relate to the protagonist, Gogol.

Rating: 8.5/10

The post on The Tossed Salad’s Pune edition can be found here: http://pune.thetossedsalad.com/2010/04/namesake-book-review/

If you want to buy ‘The Namesake’, all you have to do is to follow these links: