the namesake

Title :: The Namesake
Author :: Jhumpa Lahiri
Completed :: Mar 20 2008
Challenges :: 888 Challenge
Rating :: 2/5

I really thought I would like this book, maybe I would have but I was too distracted with the mountain of other books I was reading. But now that I have had time to think about it I'm pretty sure that my disappointment stems from the fact that I didn't like the story was told through mostly narration and there was not I feel nearly enough dialogue. At times if felt like reading somebody's boring diary. Bob did this and then he did that and then he said this and then he went there - something like that. It was a nice story but I think it really would have benefited from more dialogue. I still want to see the film and maybe that'll satisfy my need for speech.

The story begins with the birth of the Ganguli's firstborn, a boy. Traditionally the grandmother would give the child it's good name, the name to be used by the rest of the world and on all official documents, the child's intimates would call him/her by a nickname. The Ganugulis however, have a small problem, they now live in America while the rest of their family lives in India. It would be impossible for them to wait at the hospital to receive a letter from the grandmother and the doctor insists that the child cannot leave the hospital without a name on its birth certificate unless the Gangulis wanted it to read Baby Boy. In a moment of inspiration, Ashoke the father decides to name the baby Gogol after his favorite Russian author, Nikolai Gogol (great short stories by the way - loved The Nose). Gogol was meant only to be the baby's nickname until the letter arrived from India. Unfortunately the letter never made it and the grandmother soon passed away. Before Gogol enters kindergarten Ashoke decides to give him the good name Nikhil, a good Bengali name yet close to the name Nikolai. Gogol on the other hand, doesn't like his new name and when his teacher asks him what he prefers to be called he answers Gogol. Thus begins Gogol's love-hate relationship with his name.

As he grows older he doesn't like the fact that his name is different, that it sounds strange, that it is the name of a dead person, a name that is no longer in use. Before entering college he has his name legally changed to Nikhil and sticks with that. It is not until later he learns why his father chose to name him Gogol. When Ashoke was much younger he was traveling on a train to visit his grandfather in India. He had with him an empty suitcase as he knew his grandfather, who shared his love for books, would be parting with some of his collection and gifting them to Ashoke. He also carried with him a well thumbed copy of Gogol's short stories. When the lights went out on the train and the passengers begin to fall asleep Ashoke lay awake reading from Gogol. Before he knew what was happening, he was lying in a field crushed by the weight of the train unable to move. The only thing visible to the rescuers of the derailed train was his copy of Gogol whose pages were fluttering in the wind. If he hadn't had the book in his hand Ashoke is sure that they would have missed him in the wreckage and he would have died. His body was so broken that it took over a year before he could regain any type of mobility and to this day has a drag in his leg.

The book continues through the lives of Ashoke and his wife Ashima as first generation immigrants and their children as they are stuck between two very different cultures and trying to find a happy balance between both. I get the feeling that Gogol was not satisfied with his Indian life or his American life, while it seemed his sister had a better time of integrating into both societies. There didn't really seem to be a happy ending either, it just sort of ended. I can't really remember if there was any solution other than, this is life and that's the way it is. Has anyone else read this book? What did you think?

Other Thoughts ::
: you're next - reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link!

. listening . ocean size . jane's addiction . up from the catacombs .


posted by Ashleigh @ 11:53,


At 1 April 2008 at 15:41, Blogger Danielle said...

I saw the movie, which I thought was pretty good, but then totally different way of storytelling going on.

At 9 April 2008 at 13:04, Anonymous Simran said...

I think the book is simply wonderful.. talks about family ties and relationships. Very heart-warming indeed! But i've always believed that books are far better than the movies.
However, for the first time, I felt that a movie promises to be greater than a book. I'm talking about Disney's latest-Prince Caspian which is releasing this May 16th! I saw the trailer here and was absolutely spell-bound! I've read the Chronicles of Narnia and absolutely adore the fantasy series. So i'm eagerly awaiting the release of this very fine-looking movie. Its in the league of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter and off-late I've come to be very fond of such adventurous books. Moreover Ben Barnes is playing the Prince Caspian. This is going to be such a treat!!


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    ashleigh (ash'lė) n.
    1: egyptologist; currently living in the uk attempting to obtain a phd in egyptology, hoping in the end there will be a job.
    2: literary; reading to escape reality, to improve conversation, for inspiration.
    3: crafter; crocheting and needlework, creating heirlooms, keeping the world warm.
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