Novel: The Lowland
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
First published in: 2013
Story is about two brothers, both very good students in school, extremely fond of each other and how they drift apart when younger brother Udayan takes a different road in life and how this step drastically changes the elder brother Subhash’s life. Story is set in West Bengal during the 1960s when Naxalite movement was forming. Udayan gets influenced and becomes active member of the radical movement and this step alters the life of his whole family especially his elder brother who undertakes the task of becoming a father to his younger brother’s unborn child and husband to his then sister-in law, Gauri.
Subhash, studying and working in US comes back to India when he gets the news of his younger brother’s murder and doesn’t like the way his sister in law is facing indifference from his family who had never accepted her as Udayan and Gauri had got married secretively against parent’s wishes. Subhash offers to take sister in law to US where he feels she can continue her studies and start living a normal life. But even though he gets married to Gauri, takes her to US, treats his brother’s daughter, Bela like his own, infact gives more love to the child than Gauri would give in her whole life, Gauri could not warm upto him. It was not just Subhash that she couldn’t warm upto but even her daughter who until she was a woman got to know about the type of relationship between her Father(who was actually her Uncle) and her mother. Even after getting to know about the truth, Bela holds on to Subhash till old age though broken by her mother’s disappearance.
So, I picked up this novel when I read that Jhumpa Lahiri, the author received DSC prize for this novel and even the US president Obama presented her a medal for her work. The story though fictional seems very much true the way it has been written. In the beginning of the novel itself I started to love/hate characters as their perspectives unfolded. According to me this is what sets a good book apart, how well the characters come alive in reader’s mind. Good thought has been put into each character’s perspective towards the happenings around. The different relationships and situations between characters are so beautifully described like the relation between Bela and Subhash, between Gauri and Bela, the daily visit to lowland by Udayan’s mother and everything else as well. While reading I sympathized with the characters, fell in love with Subhash’s simplicity and his love for Udayan and Bela.
There are few novels which touch you so hard, this was one of those novels for me. I was completely hitched to the novel until it finished and loved each and every moment of reading it. There are some novels which I have read where the monologues or character’s description stretch so much that I feel like moving to end of paragraph but in this one there wasn’t a moment of boredom.