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160 of 172 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lowland
One of the subjects of Jhumpa Lahiri's second novel is the relationship between historical and personal time, the way single lives can encompass remarkably different places and eras, the persistence of the past. It spans two continents and more than fifty years in the lives of several characters. As such, it's a difficult book to review without at least hinting at certain...
Published 17 months ago by Brendan Moody

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125 of 134 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Sketchy Multi-Generational Portrait
First let me say that Jhumpa Lahiri is my goddess of literature. I read a lot - maybe 75 books a year - and I have rarely fallen under the spell of a book the way I did with Interpreter of Maladies. Her follow-up collection of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth, was also an unqualified 5-star success.

So I was dying to get my hands on her new novel, The Lowland...
Published 14 months ago by Jill I. Shtulman


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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing (no spoilers), October 15, 2013
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This review is from: The Lowland (Hardcover)
I am a very big fan of Jhumpa Lahiri and have loved all her books. So it is with a heavy heart that I say that I found The Lowland to be rather disappointing. The book has imprints of her incredible writing and prose, but the plot line and characters leave a great deal to be desired.

The main plot focuses on two brothers Subhash and Udayan who grow up in India in the 1960's during the Naxalite movement in Calcutta. Setting the plot of the book against a historical backdrop is an interesting choice, but one that leaves something to be desired as there is little to no connect between where the novel ends up and where it begins. The novel follows the lives of the brothers, particularly Subhash after he moves to Rhode Island, and details the unforeseen events that transpire and control much of what happens in the lives of the brothers.

Pros:
- the writing is incredible and very descriptive.
- the reader gains an understanding of the Naxalite movement.
- the constant switching between the past and the present keeps the reader interested to a degree.

Cons:
- very slow in the beginning.
- the characters are insufferable and very disjointed. It is difficult to understand their connection to each other and the reasons behind their decisions. Thus, it is difficult to invest in them or care for them.
- the book has a very fatalistic tone and an unsatisfying ending.

I greatly admire Jhumpa Lahiri and always look forward to reading her work, but this book just felt like a redux of all her previous works but without any of the poignant characters and interesting narratives.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Major letdown, March 12, 2014
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This story started off interesting with a tightly woven narrative featuring an electric tension between two brothers in the backdrop of political upheaval in post-colonial India. And then: it changed. Characters never developed; each character in the book was only a silhouette, with very little emotional depth, personality or realism. I couldn't feel empathy for any of them. A novel in which I don't care about the characters is usually a bust, but sometimes it can be worth it to read for a fun story (Twilight series, anyone) or a really fabulous writing style (John Irving comes to mind). The Lowland contains none of the above. The story plods and isn't ever all that interesting. The writing style is unadorned, and basically as uninteresting as the characters and the plot. It feels like Ms. Lahiri began the book as a short story about the two brothers, was convinced to turn it into a novel, but wasn't ready for the challenge. Glad I bought it on a Kindle and can delete it. We read this book in my book group and none of us was a fan (so it's not just me!). The criticisms were shared by the group.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I had to force myself to read it, February 14, 2014
This review is from: The Lowland (Hardcover)
I read this book for a book club, and I was eager to start it because the woman who recommended it loved the writing. I'm not sure why. The author does not show; she tells, and I never felt like there was any really story or narrative. Also, maybe I'm just a stickler for punctuation, but since when is it okay not to use quotation marks to set off dialogue? That made a tedious book even harder to pick up and read. I knew I was truly bored when I chose to grade freshman compositions rather than read this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not the best, December 5, 2013
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I was underwhelmed by this book of Lahiri's. We discussed it at our book club and the general thought was that the characters just weren't compelling. It felt a bit like Lahiri had to put out another book and perhaps just didn't have the same time and energy for this title. Some in the group were fascinated by the political elements. Personally, I wanted more character.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pitcher has gone to the well once too often, November 18, 2013
This review is from: The Lowland (Hardcover)
I gave this 3 stars because it is well written and it did make me want to finish it. I didn't give it the remaining two stars because the milieu is now getting stale, has the pitcher gone to the well once too often?
It took seven novels for JK Rowling to get Hogwarts and Muggles and Voldemort and all that out of her system and move on to writing social commentary and detective fiction;-)
Maybe it will take the same number of novels for Jhumpa to get Calcutta and ABCDs and FOBs and New England academia out of her system and to use her none too inconsiderable skills to write about other subjects.

And, oh, btw, that Sapphic encounter between Gauri and Lorna seemed totally gratuitous.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, October 18, 2013
This book really disappointed me. I loved Jhumpa Lahiri's previous books, but this one was mostly just depressing - I admit I skimmed through parts of it. She continues to describe scenes amazing well - I felt like I was in the place. And learning about the history of India during the 1960's and 70's was interesting. But, I did not connect with any of the characters. It was like viewing them from afar or through gauze. Also, the selfishness of the grief of several characters was difficult. I know people who have lost children or spouses and they did not react so extremely. I was pretty disgusted with several of the main characters. The book started well and dragged though the middle and ended somewhat well. But, ultimately, I just wanted to get through it.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A poor man's The Namesake. A poor, overly wordy, overly preachy man's The Namesake, November 1, 2013
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I have read everything that Ms. Lahiri has published, and enjoyed just about all of it. I was going on a beach/safari vacation and was ecstatic to see that The Lowland would be released just in time for me to enjoy it on the beach.

Unfortunately, as has been mentioned in other reviews, this is without a doubt the most boorish of the books that Ms. Lahiri has written. As an abstract concept, the idea that the book is based on is fascinating, but I feel that Lahiri is unable to pull the book together, largely based on a cast of characters that flutter between being boring and being unauthentic.

I think that one of the sad realizations for me having slogged through the entire book is that Lahiri has been unable to progress as an author from the outstanding beginning of her career. In her first works, she brought life to the India to America immigrants whose voice had never met the literary mainstream. Unfortunately, she relies on the same plot devices in several of her stories, making everything feel like a cliche of her own design.

For example, here are a few of the plot devices that are shared between The Namesake and The Lowland:

-Let's follow the world of a hyper educated Indian man. While I'm sure there are Indian guys who live mediocre lives, none have ever been created by Lahiri's pen
-An Indian dates an American. It fails to work because they're from different worlds and it takes a while to figure it out
-An American born Indian goes to India for a whole summer. Oh no! Culture Shock!
-Uh oh, cultural confusion as the old world pulls on the new world

The Lowland and The Namesake are somewhat similar books, but The Namesake is enjoyable, whereas The Lowland almost seems like a rejected first cut of The Namesake.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, October 18, 2013
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This review is from: The Lowland (Hardcover)
I don't start reviews of Jhumpa Lahiri's books with "disappointed" but this one deserves it. Too much hype and not enough substance. Tired old cliches, details of Calcutta street corner names, that don't matter - only make the prose more painful. Reminded me of Zadie Smith's writing after the initial accolades - dreary, painfully detailed, not enough plot development - making it hard to fall in love with the writing. No Interpreter of Maladies this!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Depressing, September 24, 2013
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This review is from: The Lowland (Hardcover)
Jhumpa Lahiri's latest novel "The Lowland" is about two brothers, Subhash and Udayan, who, during the 1960s, grow up together in Calcutta to be very close and loving, but are separated in their college years by conflicting ideology. Udayan becomes part of a communist revolutionary group and Subhash moves to Rhode Island for graduate school. What follows is a narrative about the next 50 or so years in the characters' lives wherein everyone makes terrible choices and no one is happy.

Lahiri is at her best when she is writing from the "fish out of water" perspective. When she describes life in the US as seen from the eyes of someone who has grown up in India, it is fascinating and compelling. Her prose style is wonderfully lyrical, almost haunting, but the relentless sadness of these characters wore on me.

I must admit that I found the political parts a bit confusing and the novel didn't "grab" me the way Lahiri's short stories do. I found "The Lowland" to be a solid 3-star novel.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A family of solitaries., August 6, 2013
This review is from: The Lowland (Hardcover)
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I had a hard time maintaining interest in the characters in this novel. Towards the end they are described as "a family of solitaries" which points to part of my problem: I could not maintain interest in characters who seem so little interested in each other. Jhumpa Lahiri is a wonderful writer, and I loved The Namesake; I feel uncomfortable criticizing this novel, but frankly, I was bored by it.

Now I will watch, bemused, as it leaps to the top of the bestseller lists and wins the Booker Prize.
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The Lowland
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Paperback - September 24, 2013)
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