Let’s start this review on a high note. It is rare that a book makes me fall in love with a character, and Francie is one of those few characters. The character was perfectly written and there was something about her that just made me fall in love. From her book obsession to her fierce pride and quick wit – Francie captured my heart and imagination. Even at the end when she started into her teen years and came across as somewhat hostile she kept her innocence and I just wanted to give her a hug.
There is a quote by the Federico Fellini that I believe Francie embodies, “Put yourself into life and never lose your openness, your childish enthusiasm throughout the journey that life is and things will come your way.” (Full disclosure – I found this quote via the film Under the Tuscan Sun.) Definitely check out the quotes at the end to get an idea of her character.
A friend in undergrad recommended I read this novel and I’m sad it took me this long to read it. The Namesake is one of the most beautifully and eloquently written novels I have read this year, if not ever.
There is something so simple and yet strikingly intricate in Lahiri’s prose. I can only compare her to the lyrical like prose I’ve read from many Irish authors. I found myself repeating sentences in my head because of their artful construction. The foreign names, foods, and customs interwoven with the familiar places and customs created a story I couldn’t put down. I’ve compared Jhumpa Lahiri to Jane Austen, in the ordinariness of what she writes and her style, and I stand by this, but it is the lives and deaths—the full picture, rather than the snapshot—at which Lahiri excels.
The Namesake is the story of the Ganguli family, from Ashoke’s childhood and his marriage to Ashima and the subsequent birth of Gogol (Nikhil) and Sonali (Sonia) and their lives and stories. Taking place in both India (Calcutta) and the US (Boston, Cambridge, Chicago, New York City) the setting provides a perfect backdrop for the first and second generation immigrants. Ashima’s longing to return to India and Gogol’s internal struggle of identity (he’s a first generation Bengali American named after a Russian author) provide the novel with an intensity that at times leaves the reader smiling out of sadness and crying out of happiness.
This book was both brilliant and boring. There were times when I couldn’t stop reading and times when all I wanted to do was abandon the book for another. Mostly I’m glad I finished it and hopefully it is one of those books that in a few weeks/months I’ll appreciate having read it.
I was excited about seeing Eire speak at the upcoming Boston Book Festival and I still plan on going to the panel, but I’m not as excited as I was. This isn’t the first book I’ve read that let me down. Leaving it on my list for so long without reading it, removed a lot of the luster and excitement from when I first found it and wanted to read it. Either way I can’t get my copy signed as Tom accidentally spilled water all over it and I had to check out a new version from the library to finish reading it (the main impetus in actually finishing it).