‘The Namesake’ is the story of a boy brought up Indian in America.
'When her grandmother learned of Ashima's pregnancy, she was particularly thrilled at the prospect of naming the family's first sahib. And so Ashima and Ashoke have agreed to put off the decision of what to name the baby until a letter comes…'
For now, the label on his hospital cot reads simply BABY BOY GANGULI. But as time passes and still no letter arrives from India, American bureaucracy takes over and demands that 'baby boy Ganguli' be given a name. In a panic, his father decides to nickname him 'Gogol' – after his favourite writer.
Brought up as an Indian in suburban America, Gogol Ganguli soon finds himself itching to cast off his awkward name, just as he longs to leave behind the inherited values of his Bengali parents. And so he sets off on his own path through life, a path strewn with conflicting loyalties, love and loss…
Spanning three decades and crossing continents, Jhumpa Lahiri's much-anticipated first novel is a triumph of humane story-telling. Elegant, subtle and moving, ‘The Namesake’ is for everyone who loved the clarity, sympathy and grace of Lahiri's Pulitzer Prize-winning debut story collection, ‘Interpreter of Maladies’.
‘Extraordinary…a book that spins gold out of the straw of ordinary lives. The calm, pellucid grace of her prose, the sustained stretch of crystal clear writing, its elegant pianissimo tone, pulls the reader from beginning to end in one neat arc. Every detail, every observation, every sentence rings with the clarity of truth. The Namesake is a novel that makes its reader feel privileged to be allowed access to its immensely empathetic world.' The Times
‘The kind of writer who makes you want to grab the next person and say "Read this!"' Amy Tan
'Impeccably written' Daily Mail
'Gracious….in refined, empathetic prose…each of Lahiri's characters patches together their own identity, making this resonant fable neither uniquely Asian nor uniquely American, but tenderly, wryly human.' Hephzibah Anderson, The Observer
‘This is certainly a novel that explores the concepts of cultural identity, of rootlessness, of tradition and familial expectation…but …it never succumbs to the cliches those themes so often entail. Instead, Lahiri turns it into something both larger and simpler: the story of a man and his family, of his life and hopes, loves and sorrows. She has a talent – magical, sly, cumulative – that most writers would kill for.’ Julie Myerson, The Guardian
‘Jhumpa Lahiri’s excellent first novel… is the work of a fine writer, discriminating, compassionate and surprising. It is, too, a story for our times.’ Rachel Cusk, Evening Standard
‘A joy to read.’ Sunday Telegraph
About the author
Jhumpa Lahiri was born in London of Bengali parents, and grew up in Rhode Island, USA. Her stories have appeared in many American journals, including the New Yorker. Interpreter of Maladies, her first published collection, won the Pulitzer Prize 2000 for Fiction, the New Yorker Prize for Best First Book, the PEN/Hemingway Award and was shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Award. Jhumpa Lahiri lives in New York.
One of the most anticipated books of the year, Lahiri's first novel (after 1999's Pulitzer Prize winning Interpreter of Maladies) amounts to less than the sum of its parts. Hopscotching across 25 years, it begins when newlyweds Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli emigrate to Cambridge, Mass., in 1968, where Ashima immediately gives birth to a son, Gogol a pet name that becomes permanent when his formal name, traditionally bestowed by the maternal grandmother, is posted in a letter from India, but lost in transit. Ashoke becomes a professor of engineering, but Ashima has a harder time assimilating, unwilling to give up her ties to India. A leap ahead to the '80s finds the teenage Gogol ashamed of his Indian heritage and his unusual name, which he sheds as he moves on to college at Yale and graduate school at Columbia, legally changing it to Nikhil. In one of the most telling chapters, Gogol moves into the home of a family of wealthy Manhattan WASPs and is initiated into a lifestyle idealized in Ralph Lauren ads. Here, Lahiri demonstrates her considerable powers of perception and her ability to convey the discomfort of feeling "other" in a world many would aspire to inhabit. After the death of Gogol's father interrupts this interlude, Lahiri again jumps ahead a year, quickly moving Gogol into marriage, divorce and a role as a dutiful if a bit guilt-stricken son. This small summary demonstrates what is most flawed about the novel: jarring pacing that leaves too many emotional voids between chapters. Lahiri offers a number of beautiful and moving tableaus, but these fail to coalesce into something more than a modest family saga. By any other writer, this would be hailed as a promising debut, but it fails to clear the exceedingly high bar set by her previous work.