Mostly a Bleak Grind: The Lowland

The LowlandThe Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

I have adored both of Lahiri’s short story collections and her novel The Namesake is one of the most moving novels I can remember reading. The Lowland was therefore a highly anticipated new release for me but would it meet my expectations?

Brothers Subhash and Udayan are inseparable as young boys, finding mischief in their Calcutta neighbourhood. Udayan is bold and adventurous; Subhash sensible and reserved, following his brother’s shadow. As the two grow older they begin to drift apart; Udayan joins the Naxalite rebellion and Subhash takes an opportunity to study abroad. A single disastrous event will have repercussions for all their loved ones.

First Impressions: The first part of this novel was really hard work. It felt like a history lesson taught by my charisma-lacking Year 10 history teacher. (Seriously, my Year 10 history teacher led us through one term of Indian history.)

Highlights: Lahiri’s writing is as ethereal as you would expect and the novel is clearly a work of literary merit.

If I was an editor: I would wonder if all three main characters had to lead such bleak lives. Did all three have to pursue stoic solitary existences, devoid of all pleasure? Surely one of the three could have bounced along merrily in life or shown some sort of pizzazz.  I also felt their was some box ticking with the journey each character took, both traditional (unplanned pregnancy, sexual experimentation) and contemporary (eco-friendliness).

Overall: As much as I wanted to love this novel I found it to be just too much hard work.

The Lowland: 3 Stars


4 thoughts on “Mostly a Bleak Grind: The Lowland

  1. Pingback: Six Degrees of Separation #8 | Orange Pekoe Reviews

  2. Well, here I am via your comment about this book on my blog, and you know, your review *great minds think alike* shows that *wink* my readers are a very discerning bunch of readers!
    It’s interesting to think about this book compared to Stoner. He’s a stoic character who has a bleak life too, but somehow it is not depressing, it is uplifting and inspiring. We admire Stoner’s courage whereas Subhash just seems like a loser, letting everyone else mess up any chance of happiness he might have. There’s an underlying selfishness and spitefulness in the characters’ behaviour which is depressing. From Udayan’s parents’ unkindness to his wife, to her withdrawal from her husband and child and that child’s retaliation – the whole novel seems like someone is paying out on someone else. No one learns wisdom or forgiveness, or even to let go of resentment.
    And yes, it’s exactly like a YA novel of the whinging sort.

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