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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Namesake
The Namesake is Jhumpa Lahiri's first novel although it is her second book. Her first was the Interpreter of Maladies, a well received short story collection that won several awards. The Namesake follows the Ganguli family, the Bengali immigrants Ashima and Ashoke and their American-born children, over a period of 30 years. The main focus of the book is on their son,...
Published on 12 May 2005 by DDS

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Of A Googly
A bit of a googly because I found it rather deceptive this book. It appears to be a well written, neatly structured story of a man's life from birth to, well, mediocrity and middle-age, but whilst the sentences are nicely composed and measured and the scenes are carefully constructed with colour and detail, the truth is there's no heart.

The story seems to be...
Published on 9 May 2012 by Woolco


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Of A Googly, 9 May 2012
This review is from: The Namesake (Paperback)
A bit of a googly because I found it rather deceptive this book. It appears to be a well written, neatly structured story of a man's life from birth to, well, mediocrity and middle-age, but whilst the sentences are nicely composed and measured and the scenes are carefully constructed with colour and detail, the truth is there's no heart.

The story seems to be gathered on a thread (the life of Gogol, the namesake)with decorative beads, vignettes from a life story, but remains on a thread - the end product not excuisite jewelry. It's essentially episodic and rather disconnected, especially on an emotional level. The characters barely reflect on their history, the poigniant events of their past. It is all rather matter of fact.

It depicts life experienced as if in a dream: un-self-concious, unreflective. Just a succession of events. None of the characters appear curious enough to question these events, or attempt to put together the pieces.

It's no surprise the author has graduated from the short story form. For me, there is too much of what is to be enjoyed in a short story: atmospheric, well articulated scenes with shades of poetic ambiguity, left to the reader's interpretation. But not enough of what a novel should offer: character insight and development; a story co-ordinating with momentum, intensifying our identification with the characters through the growing weight of past actions and circumstance.

As the book progressed, even the sadder things just felt like yet further items on a supermarket conveyor belt.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Namesake, 12 May 2005
By 
DDS - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Namesake (Paperback)
The Namesake is Jhumpa Lahiri's first novel although it is her second book. Her first was the Interpreter of Maladies, a well received short story collection that won several awards. The Namesake follows the Ganguli family, the Bengali immigrants Ashima and Ashoke and their American-born children, over a period of 30 years. The main focus of the book is on their son, Gogol, born in 1968. Instead of being named by an elderly relative in India, a series of events unfold leading to him being named after his father's favourite author, the Russian Nikolai Gogol. This is the namesake of the title.
We follow Gogol throughout the first three decades of his life through his ups and downs, his childhood, his education, his relationships, his career and, most of all, his various identity crises. From an early age he belives that he doesn't really fit in, he feels that he alone in the entire world has Gogol as a first name. Also he embraces the American way of life, unlike his parents who try to keep to their traditional Indian way and this too causes him strife. Before going to college he invents a new identity for himself and changes his name to Nikhil, which is both suitably Indian but can be shortened to the more American Nick. Over time both he and his parents adjust their ways of thinking. His parents grow to enjoy American customs such as Christmas and the benefits of American life, while Nikhil embraces his Indian heritage.
The structure of the book seems to hark back to Interpreter of Maladies, it is written in almost a short story style, with different chapters being told from several different character perspectives. Fortunately this is tied together with consistent themes and a mainly constant cast of characters. However, frustratingly, a lot of potential action is lost in between different chapters; relationships end in a blink of an eye and characters disappear never to be mentioned again. Despite this the book draws you along with the depth of its characterisation of both the major and peripheral characters. Jhumpa Lahiri has a passion for her subject and this shows in her writing. She makes you care and feel for Gogol and his family. The book is at once, warm and profound, comforting and deep. Her insight into both cultures, American and Indian coupled with well written prose makes this book both an education as well as a pleasure to read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who really is Gogol?, 9 May 2006
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Namesake (Paperback)
There have been many novels about identity problems of immigrants and about how this adds to the traditional tensions between young people and their parents, when the young grow up in one culture while their parents retain behaviour patterns of the country they came from; but this novel is an exceptionally subtle treatment of this subject. The central figure, Gogol Ganguli, born in America to Bengali immigrant parents, has all these difficulties, in addition to labouring under a first name he dislikes, (and we learn how he came to be given that name). But he has another name, Nikhil, which he uses to distance himself from his family.

All the characters are beautifully and often tenderly drawn, and we learn a lot about Bengali customs. The book is mostly about Gogol' relationships during his first 32 years - with his parents and with a succession of young women. Those with the young women all end disappointingly for Gogol, and there is a wistful, melancholic, slightly depressing air about the book. There are long passages describing the surroundings of the characters in minute and evocative detail - whether it is the landscape, the weather or domestic interiors. The same detailed treatment is given to small every-day actions of the characters, although they often have little to do with the plot - almost as if they are as important as the emotional journeys that are at the heart of the book. In fact, I think, it distracts attention from that journey; and, together with Lahiri's use of the Historic Present throughout the novel (an irritating device for which I can see no particular reason), I felt just a little weary of the details and the style towards the end. But I still found it a book of considerable quality, which I am glad to have read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story of culture and parental relationships, 10 Feb 2006
By 
Peter Moss "themusicsnob" (Herne Bay, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Namesake (Paperback)
The namesake is one of my favourite books with writing as beautiful in places as fellow 'Indian' authors and Napaul or Rushdie.
A book full of themes on migration, from the perspective of a woman, married and then ripped from the comforts of her home, her family, her existance to a foreign country she hates and fears. To a father and husband whos narrow escape from death forces him to reevalute his life and move to the US. To the son, who is American, who constantly battles and rejects his Bengali background until his father dies and then is racked with guilt and tries to compensate for his 'Americaness' and satisfy his parents desires to dissasterous consequences. Gogol, our hero, throughout the story constantly trying to find the balance between his parents beliefs and his own, a subject very close to many regardless of the nationality of their parents.
To the poster who believed there was no plot I think he missed the point. The books denumont comes when his mother finds her peace and accepts that she has a life in the US, the one she’s created for her children and for herself and also has the need for her home land. The ending is a learning of both the mother and the children of how the parents courage outweighs their own, the oppurtities they’ve struggled for to give them but on the other side, the way in which the children have shaped the lives of their parents, enriching their culture. The result is a balance in all of the characters where they come to terms with the internal cultural differences within the family, those with the country they live in, the countries they were born in and the countries their family line comes from.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 23 Dec 2006
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This review is from: The Namesake (Paperback)
Some of the finest writing I've read. Lahiri gently draws you into her characters in a way that reminds me of Seth's writing in A Suitable Boy. She manages to exquisitely depict the complexities and nuances that exist within a single person. It is a poignant telling of the shifting of immigrants' identity and role within society, and of the conflicts arising in their offspring that strikes a particular chord with me as a second generation child in the UK. I look forward to reading more of her work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Would a Rose by Another Other Name Smell as Sweet?, 10 Sep 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Namesake (Paperback)
While many are today fascinated by the extent that our heredity and environment shape our lives, Ms. Lahiri takes on the narrower question how our names influence who we are and who we become. The premise is an intriguing one and is fully developed in the novel. Unfortunately, that premise is too weak a reed to carry an entire novel.
Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli have a traditional family background in Calcutta. After they marry (an arranged marriage), they move to Cambridge, Massachusetts where Ashoke pursues his education. Their lives are made more difficult by the separation from their families and homeland, and they cope by drawing their Bengali friends in the U.S. close to them. Through an implausible series of events, they have no name prepared when their son is born. Forced to put down something, they choose "Gogol" to be his name. To their son, that name is a curse that he bears which puts distance between him and his family. The story carries on until he is in his late 30s.
Ms. Lahiri is a very stylish writer and she tells her story well. Ashima Ganguli is her finest creation in the book, and you will relate deeply to this woman. A major disappointment about the book is that it moves off of Ashima too much after the beginning. Gogol isn't nearly as interesting or attractive a character. In fact, I didn't relate well to him at all. The sections about his life by the end seem like just so much filler for the book's interesting conclusion. As a result, the book comes off like a fine short story or novella that has a lot of excess material stuffed into the middle and end.
Many of my favorite parts of the book were the many references to Bengali customs. Seldom does a book about immigrants describe their cultural practices in such loving and thoughtful ways.
Without Ashima, the ending, the fine writing style and the cultural descriptions, this would be just another debut novel. If those elements had been put into a stronger story with more characters of Ashima's development and appeal, this could have been an excellent novel. As it is, the book starts off at a high level and drifts off from there.
I suggest you give the book a try.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving tale of identity, 28 April 2005
By 
HORAK (Zug, Switzerland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Namesake (Paperback)
In her touching tale, Mrs Lahiri tells the story of an Indian family living in the United States. The novel opens with the birth of Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli's son in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1968. Then the author relates in detail how Ashoke and Ashima marry in Calcutta without having met even once before. After the wedding, Ashoke is offered a position as a doctoral candidate in electrical engineering at MIT and moves to Cambridge, followed some time later by his wife Ashima. Since it is the tradition in Bengal that the grandmother determines her grandson's Christian name, she sends a letter from Calcuta to Cambridge but the letter never arrives and so the reader learns how the main character in the novel comes to bear the name of Gogol.
It is interesting to see how the first generation emigrants feel completely out of place in their new environment, constantly longing to return to their country. But as their children grow up, they gradually adapt to American customs, startled by the fact that their offspring feel much closer to the culture they are being brought up in rather that to their parents' original civilisation. After Ashoke's death, more than thirty years later, as Ashima is about to sell her house and return to Calcutta, her conception of "home" has naturally shifted and she actually feels like going to a foreign place.
A moving first novel in which Mrs Lahiri describes in a compassionate, tender and human way a small family making the voyage between Asia and America.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Namesake, 15 Feb 2005
By 
DDS - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Namesake, The (Hardcover)
The Namesake is Jhumpa Lahiri's first novel although it is her second book. Her first was the Interpreter of Maladies, a well received short story collection that won several awards. The Namesake follows the Ganguli family, the Bengali immigrants Ashima and Ashoke and their American-born children, over a period of 30 years. The main focus of the book is on their son, Gogol, born in 1968. Instead of being named by an elderly relative in India, a series of events unfold leading to him being named after his father's favourite author, the Russian Nikolai Gogol. This is the namesake of the title.
We follow Gogol throughout the first three decades of his life through his ups and downs, his childhood, his education, his relationships, his career and, most of all, his various identity crises. From an early age he belives that he doesn't really fit in, he feels that he alone in the entire world has Gogol as a first name. Also he embraces the American way of life, unlike his parents who try to keep to their traditional Indian way and this too causes him strife. Before going to college he invents a new identity for himself and changes his name to Nikhil, which is both suitably Indian but can be shortened to the more American Nick. Over time both he and his parents adjust their ways of thinking. His parents grow to enjoy American customs such as Christmas and the benefits of American life, while Nikhil embraces his Indian heritage.
The structure of the book seems to hark back to Interpreter of Maladies, it is written in almost a short story style, with different chapters being told from several different character perspectives. Fortunately this is tied together with consistent themes and a mainly constant cast of characters. However, frustratingly, a lot of potential action is lost in between different chapters; relationships end in a blink of an eye and characters disappear never to be mentioned again. Despite this the book draws you along with the depth of its characterisation of both the major and peripheral characters. Jhumpa Lahiri has a passion for her subject and this shows in her writing. She makes you care and feel for Gogol and his family. The book is at once, warm and profound, comforting and deep. Her insight into both cultures, American and Indian coupled with well written prose makes this book both an education as well as a pleasure to read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars rather dull, 20 Jan 2008
By 
Jane Rosemarie Thorogood "caravan queen" (palmers green, london) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Namesake (Paperback)
I was really looking forward to reading this, but gave up halfway through.I found the characters quite stereotypical and Gogal was a wimp-I had no sympathy at all for him. The story just did not seem to go anywhere, just a long-winded ramble about identity.It needed a bit of spice.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a predictable theme, 1 July 2008
By 
101 (London, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Namesake (Paperback)
Okay, I've read all 3 of Jhumpa Lahiri's books and am starting to detect a distinct theme!

Bengali family hailing from Calcutta move to the east coast of the USA. Probably Boston or Cambridge. The first generation have some difficulty fitting in: language, accents, loneliness... The 2nd generation find themselves having to be two different characters: the western ones in school and yet still very much Bengali at home. This causes resentment, arguments with parents and some soul searching. Add in a splash of rebellion - girls, drugs... and some beef eating!

Eventually an acceptance is reached between parents and their children. The parents accept their children's shortcomings and the children realise that while they live in the US, they are not WASPs.

That said, I love her books. Each is some simply and beautifully written. It is easy to identify with the characters, to see the quiet desperation in their lives.
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The Namesake
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (Paperback - 4 July 2004)
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