The Lowland: Jhumpa Lahiri


imageThe Lowland
is one of those novels that is so vast – not in size, but in scope – that it makes me hesitant to describe it. Lahiri is one of those writers who is really writing worlds; truths, whatever that means. Bringing forth lives and unravelling them meticulously. This novel is about the lives of two brothers and the women who touch their lives. It is also about America and India, and politics, and education, and family, and freedom and what it costs. You know, light stuff. Lahiri’s slow-burning narrative, and lightness of touch lulled me into the immensity of this novel’s highs and lows without feeling as though I was being dragged through mud. No mean feat, considering.

Her greatest achievement with The Lowland, I think, is that each of Lahiri’s characters feels wholly believable – I was going to say ’rounded’ but that is a flawed descriptor; people are rarely ’rounded’, and it would be better to say ‘asymmetrical’ or ‘irregular’. Lahiri draws the two brothers in the romantic/mythic but also often truthful mode: they are two sides of the same coin. Opposing, inseparable, complementary. These men are the anchor of the novel. The women – refreshingly awkward and (again, this word) truthful – are not as they should be, and it is still a joy to read women like this; cut from no discernable pattern, and all the colours of the rainbow. Bravo.

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