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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
The Namesake
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 10 February 2011
I ordered 'The Namesake' after greatly appreciating Unaccustomed Earth which had me reaching for a notebook to capture forever some wonderful quotes from it. Still 'The Namesake' sat about for a while as a 'to be read' (TBR) i.e. 'some other time', before I started it, as the write up on the back left me a bit cool towards the content. I actually realise now that I too was consciously affected by the ugliness of Gogol's name; it called to mind Gorgons, or some such monster.

Grappling with this awkward and unexplainable handle, Gogol ploughs through his serious days. Removed from India to the USA, his parents seem apologetic and nervous of the outside world; yet urgently needing to fit in and to recreate the warm, accepting, encircling love they left behind with their large family. Longing for their distanced relations suffuses the lives of Ashoke and Ashima. All the same they are determined to make a success of their new situation, well prepared to quietly sacrifice deep set parts of their make up for the happiness of Gogol and his sister Sonia, aka Sonali. In a way they are all children, newly born to the American life. Understanding of his parents' sacrifice comes late to Gogol; as a child he has a foot in both camps having naturally become more American than Bengali. Children can as we know, be cruel.

Wistful moments abound. The story become unexpectedly, for me, entirely touching. Having a short name and a long name is quite usual, I know the feeling of not recognising my proper name in the first days of school. For the Bengali tradition there is a 'good' name and a given one. One is used privately, the other for the outside world. Through a little mishap this process goes awry for Gogol. Thereafter he feels ill at ease with himself and it is this that sets him apart more than his race it seems. So what a challenge it can be to come to terms with an ill fitting label. Somehow it seems to colour his place in life and his success in relationships. Being Gogol is a tough row to hoe. Luckily Nikhil rides to his rescue, his other name. It is fascinating to know what actually makes someone physically change their 'christian' name - 'The Namesake' deftly offers an explanation for this intriguing mystery.

The phenomenon of rather falling in love with other families happens to Gogol, when he is accepted by the parents of one girlfriend quite completely. This is a rite of passage I think for young people, when they are emerging into their own personalities and deciding the kind of life they will choose. A form of disloyalty to the birth family but an educational process all the same.

The fortunes and misfortunes of Gogol/Nikhil and his nearest and dearest are beautifully described. Life happens to them; when they are busy making other plans. How they cope and re emerge from troubles keeps you reading with attachment and empathy. You can seem them all from all sides and love them for it. A most absorbing read. I have been advised that it is also a wonderful film. The Namesake [DVD] [2006]
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on 17 June 2016
I have seen the film based on this first, and loved the story. I really enjoyed Lahiri's other works, so got this one, and I was not disappointed. it was hard to put down, I have re-read a few parts a few times, it is a powerful story, and the style is exquisite. Highly recommend!
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on 18 January 2016
I enjoy Jhumpa Lahiris work. Fascinatingly woven stories and an insight into the workings of Asian immigrant families in US, the difficultes they face, their stoicism. Lovely characters. A great warmth in her writing.
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on 26 October 2016
Excellent insight into the merging of cultures and inappropriate expectations placed on children. It also covered the conversations which regrettably fail to take place between generations until it is too late
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on 11 June 2014
Interesting story line. Seems a little clichéd in parts. Well written. Characters suffered from lack of communication at times. Took a long time for the main character to grow up. I was irritated by him by the end.
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on 14 May 2015
Read this as a book club choice. I found it rather difficult to read, although I intend to re-read it as I may get more out of it a second time.
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on 23 December 2006
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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on 17 April 2014
I really loved this book, it is written in a style that is so eikasy to read but really draws the reader in to the lives of the characters so they become very I real. It is an interesting book about
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on 17 December 2014
Wierdly the first time I preferred the movie to the film....? A great book though esp for any 2nd/3rd Generation immigrants
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on 19 October 2016
A good read.
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